Valentine’s Day.A day we all associate with flowers, romance and love.

Whether you love it or the thought of it makes you cringe, it’s something that has been part of our society for hundreds of years.

All the while, it’s a holiday with an interesting history and mind-blowing facts. There are many myths and superstitions surrounding it, and it’s time we took a good look into them.

But first thing’s first…

How did it actually begin?

The most popular theory is that of a Roman beginning.

In Roman times, a festival called ‘Lupercalia’ took place from the 13th to 15th of February. Men would randomly pick the name of a woman out of an urn, and the two of them would be a couple for the rest of the festival. If it turned out to be a match made in heaven, they’d end up staying together and getting married.

There’s also another theory regarding a Roman origination – it was believed that Emperor Claudius II was not in favour of men marrying in war time as to him single men made better soldiers. A bishop named Valentine did not agree with this idea, and as a result performed secret weddings. When he was found out he was jailed and sentenced to death.

How did it actually begin?
But there’s more.While he was in jail awaiting execution (on the 14th of February, no less), he wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it off with ‘from your Valentine’.

Could this have been where Valentine’s cards come from? It’s definitely possible!

Throughout history, Valentine’s Day has continued to be marked in a number of ways…

Since the Roman times, different eras have put their own stamp on Valentine’s Day.

Those in the Middle Ages undertook a similar tradition to the Romans, with women writing their name on a piece of paper for a man to pick out of a jar. If this man was eligible, he would pin the piece of paper with her name on to his sleeve for a week. Quite literally wearing your heart on your sleeve.

Moving further along to the 1700s, on the night before Valentine’s Day single women would place five bay leaves on their pillow – one at each corner and one in the centre – and believed this would enable them to have dreams about their future husbands.

We might think Valentine’s Day is popular now, but it was definitely at its height in the Victorian era. In fact, despite the holiday starting hundreds of years ago, it was the Victorians who set into gear some of the traditions we still use today.

For example, Richard Cadbury created the first box of Valentine’s chocolates way back in 1868. It’s thanks to him and Cadbury’s that we’re spoiled with lots of chocolate at this time of year.

It was also the Victorians who upped the Valentine’s card trend – they would make their cards by hand and decorate them with lace and pictures of hearts and flowers.

They were more cherished than Christmas cards.

Additionally, it was seen as bad luck to sign your name on these cards, so they were sent anonymously. Some even posted them from other towns so the recipient didn’t know where it had been sent from.

Superstition has also played its part…

Naturally, superstitions regarding this particular day have surfaced over the years:

  • If you recite the names of ‘suitable’ marriage partners while twisting the stem of an apple between your fingers and the stem breaks, then the name the stem breaks on will be your future husband or wife.
  • The first person’s name hear on the TV or radio or read in the paper is the name of the person you will marry.
  • Different birds you see on Valentine’s Day will determine the type of person you will marry. For example, if you see a goldfinch you will marry a millionaire, while if you see a flock of doves you will have a happy marriage. If a woman sees a sparrow, she will marry a poor man and be happy in her marriage.
  • If a woman writes the names of all of her suitors on a piece of paper and attaches them to a clay ball then drops them into water, the first one to surface would be the name of her future husband.
  • In the medieval times, young women going to a graveyard at midnight on the eve of Valentine’s Day and singing a song while running around the church twelve times was believed to summon their future husbands.
Superstition has also played its part…
And the best one…If you find a glove on the pavement on Valentine’s Day, then your future spouse will be carrying the other glove.

And those are just some of them.

Valentine’s Day customs vary from country to country…

The 14th of February is a cause of major celebration in some countries. Whether past or present, each country has it’s unique way of marking the day.

Denmark, for example, has only celebrated Valentine’s Day since the early 90s. Pressed white flowers called snowdrops are exchanged, along with ‘lovers cards’.

What’s more is these ‘lovers cards’ are different to what we’re used to.


Traditionally, these cards were transparent and showed a picture of the card giver giving a gift to the recipient. Nowadays, though, a ‘lovers card’ related to any card given on Valentine’s Day.

Furthermore, men will give women a ‘Gaekkebrev’, which is a funny poem or rhyme. These will be signed using only dots, each dot representing a letter in the sender’s name. If the woman correctly guesses who sent her the gaekkebrev, she’ll get an Easter egg later in the year. Not a bad deal!

On the other hand, Finland tend to centre the 14th of February around celebrating friendship rather than celebrating romantic love. They call it “Ystavan Paiva’, which when translated into English literally means ‘Friend’s Day’. It’s a lovely way to switch things up.

Paris is seen as the city of love, so of course France’s traditional means of celebration was extravagant to say the least. They used to take part in ‘The Drawing For Love’ every Valentine’s Day. Men and women of a wide variety of age groups would actually enter the houses opposite one another and call out through the windows until they paired up.

But it doesn’t stop there.

If a man wasn’t satisfied with who he was paired up with, he’d leave her and choose someone else to pair up with.

That’s not even the best part.

The women who ended up single would all build a bonfire and together they would burn the pictures of the men who left them. Eventually this tradition was banned by the government for being a bit too uncontrollable.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, many mass public weddings have taken place on the 14th of February in recent years.

In South Africa, it seems they have followed the lead of those in the Roman times and Middle Ages, except with the roles reversed. This time, women pin the name of their crush on their sleeve so these men know they have a secret admirer.

So…. what about more recent times?

Valentine’s Day has become quite a big deal with celebrations and acts of love taking place all over the globe.

50 million roses are received globally on this day alone, with men accounting for 73 percent of these flower sales – although women purchase 85 per cent of all Valentines gifts. There are around one billion cards exchanged on the day as well, which means Valentine’s Day is the second biggest time of year for card sending after Christmas.

This is also a great holiday for procrastinators, as over 50 per cent of Valentine’s Day cards are purchased just six days before the actual day.

What about more recent times?
Of all of this, it’s teachers who receive the most Valentine’s cards, and parents receive one out of every five Valentines.Although, it does seem as though some people prefer to stick to fictional romance, with over 1,000 letters to Juliet (yes, from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’) being sent to the city of Verona in Italy each year.

And the marriage proposals…

Naturally, there are a significant amount of proposals on this day. 10% of all marriage proposals happen on the 14th of February, even though, according to London Loves Business, 88% of women don’t think Valentine’s Day is the best time to propose.

And perhaps the most interesting fact of all…

About 3 per cent of pet owners will give their pet a Valentine’s Day gift.