Valentine’s Day is one of the most successful commercial celebrations. Gregory Grinnell traces the history of this day in an interesting article for Northeastern University. It covers some diverse stories from across the globe, all potentially pointing at the conceptualization of the day today.
One of these is Lupercalia, an ancient festival of Italian Peninsula that is aimed at cleansing evil spirits, spreading health and vitality and boosting the fertility. The later Roman period saw Valentinus, who could be the St. Valentine that we know of today, whose healing of a blind girl named Julia led to his execution. Another Valentinus was also reported in Italy during the reign of King Cladius who was executed after he tried to urge the king to convert to Christianity and he refused.
Central Europe has a completely different story where the mating ritual of birds in turn led to the exchange of notes between potential partners on the fourteenth of February. Exchange of handmade cards and poems extended well into the 1700s when ready made cards became available due to technological advancements and also made it easier to express emotions during a time when public display of these was discouraged.
The Valentine’s Day card as an industry boomed in the 19th century. In the US today, about 1 billion cards get bought during this day. The increased commercialisation has encouraged efforts to make the occasion less materialistic. Singles Awareness Day observed on 15th February is an addition to acknowledge and respect the choice of people who are not in a romantic relationship.
N Malavika Mohan