Tale as old as time … Valentine’s Day
Can you feel it? Love is in the air. Yes, love is all around us because this Sunday is Valentine’s Day. Have you ever wondered where Valentine’s Day originated from or why we celebrate with flowers and chocolates?
Valentine’s Day originated from the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a celebration held in mid-February that celebrated the coming of Spring and fertility by having men draw the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be together for the duration of the festival, or longer if they were a good match. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day, named in honour of Valentinus, a Roman priest who was executed on February 14 around 269 A.D. Valentinus is credited with sending the first Valentine’s love letter. Before he died he wrote a love letter to a woman who had visited him in jail and signed the letter “From your Valentine”.
With its background in rituals around marriage and fertility, the date became associated with love and romance and by the 1500s messages of love were being exchanged on 14 February. Valentine’s Day grew significantly with the printing of the first commercial Valentine’s Day cards in the late 1700s. The Hallmark company, founded in the early 1900s, were the first to mass-produce affordable Valentine’s cards and this, plus efficiencies in the mail system, was instrumental in evolving Valentine’s Day into its current format where cards and gifts are exchanged.
Today, Valentine’s Day is popular in many countries including Australia, the United States, Britain, France, Mexico and the Philippines. In the Philippines mass weddings of hundreds of couples are commonly held on Valentine’s Day. As well as cards, Valentine’s Day has grown to include other expressions of love including flowers and chocolates. A 2019 Valentine’s Day survey by Brewquets found that 77% of couples in Australia celebrate Valentine’s Day and 43% buy a gift for their partner. On average Australians spend $90 on Valentine’s gifts. The most popular gifts for men are alcohol, while for women it is flowers.