Most of us have strong feelings about Valentine's Day; either dreading it, or looking forward to it with anticipation. Valentine's Day is recognized in many countries around the world each year on February 14th, and is celebrated as a day of romance in which people give cards and gifts of flowers and chocolates, enjoy a romantic dinner, and generally express their love for each other.
Our modern day of romance is based on a celebration of the elusive Saint Valentine, and while the Catholic Church recognizes 3 different St. Valentines, it is unclear which saint was the basis for the holiday.
One legend is based around a Roman priest from the third century. This priest stood against the emperor when he outlawed marriage for young men. The Emperor's argument that single men made better soldiers than married men did not convince the priest, and he was killed for his position. Another story claims that Valentine sent the first valentine card from jail and signed it 'from your valentine' to the women he loved. A third story claims that Valentine helped free tortured men from jail and was killed in the process. Despite the numerous Valentines throughout history, the connection to romantic love was most likely not established until Geoffrey Chaucer referenced Valentine's Day as a Day of love in a poem for the engagement of England's Richard II. Regardless of the origin, Valentine's Day has become a time to proclaim your love, not only for your sweetheart, but for your other family members as well.
The timing of the holiday celebration during the month of February is likely tied to the Roman belief that February was the start of spring and a season of purification. It was also believed in England and France, that Feb. 14th marked the start of the birds' mating season. The specific date of February 14th is likely linked to the Roman celebration of fertility, Lupercalia.
The popularity of the Valentine's Day has grown throughout the centuries and by the mid 1800's people began to send mass produced Valentines to their loved ones. Today approximately 1 billion cards are sent in celebration of this holiday, with 85% of those cards being purchased by females. Despite the high percentage of female purchased cards, men are known to spend almost twice as much as women on Valentine's Day, mostly on flowers, chocolates and jewelry. In today's world Valentine's Day has become a mass marketed holiday and you can send valentines on the internet, with specially designed stamps, or route your letter through Loveland, Colorado for something a little special.