10 things you didn't know about Valentine's Day
Are you celebrating Valentine's Day today by spoiling your loved one? Or maybe you're getting your mates together for a #Galentines party to celebrate friendship? Even if you hate the commercialism of V Day, there's no escaping it as love hearts and flowers are everywhere you turn come 14 February. But why do we actually celebrate it and where did our Valentines traditions originate?
1. How did Valentine's Day begin?
Not much is known about Saint Valentine, but many people believe he was a 3rd-century Roman bishop. Defying the orders of Emperor Claudius II, who tried to ban marriages during wartime to make sure all the men could serve, he secretly married couples to prevent the husbands from being conscripted to serve in the army. Claudius discovered Valentine was a clandestine cupid, and sent him to be jailed and executed for his crimes of passion.
2. Why do we send Valentine's cards?
While Valentine was in prison, he's said to have managed to cure the jailer's daughter of blindness through his prayers. On the day he was executed, he left her a note signed "Your Valentine".
However, the first actual Valentine's card was said to have been penned by the young French Duke of Orleans. He sent it to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
3. Why do we celebrate Valentine's Day on 14 February?
Back in the Middle Ages, lovers in France started to swap gifts of love on this date. Why? They believed birds began to mate around the middle of February, so they must have thought there was something in the air!
4. How did people celebrate Valentine's Day in the past?
There was a French custom called "une loterie d'amour" (translation: the love lottery) which was like a Middle Ages version of Take Me Out. Singles entered opposite facing houses and shouted at each other from the windows, until eventually they paired off. If the guy didn't like the girl, he would leave and the single ladies would get together around a bonfire later that night, burning pictures of the men who'd dumped them. Eventually, it was banned by the state - after all, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!
Back then, there was also a tradition of young people taking names out of a dish to see who would be their true love. They'd pin the name to their sleeves for a week and parade around town letting everyone know... literally wearing their hearts on the sleeves, which is where the saying came from!
5. Why do we eat chocolate on Valentine's Day?
Why not?! But if you need a little history to make you feel better about overdosing on Milk Tray, 19th-century doctors actually advised lovesick patients to eat chocolate to calm their heartbreak. Savvy old Richard Cadbury put on sale the first box of chocolates to mark Valentine's Day in the late 1800s, and the rest is history!
6. How many Valentine's cards are sent every year?
More than a BILLION Valentine's cards are bought every year. You're a romantic bunch!
7. Why do we send or receive red roses on Valentine's Day?
Apparently, red roses were the flower of choice for Venus, the goddess of love.
8. How do people celebrate Valentine's Day in other countries?
In Finland, it's called Ystävänpäivä (try saying that after a few glasses of champers), which translate as "friends' day". There, it's all about celebrating your friends rather than your loved ones.
Over in South Korea, the celebrations last months. On 14 February, women lavish men with flowers, chocolates and sweets. On 14 March, it's White Day, which is the guys' turn to return the favour. Singletons get to drown their sorrows in black bean paste noodles on 14 April, known as Black Day.
9. Who buys more Valentine's cards?
Women buy 85% of the Valentine's cards sold worldwide. And 15% of women even send themselves flowers! *sob*
10. Why should pets miss out?
They don't! More than 9 million people buy gifts for their pets on Valentine's Day. Admit it - are you one of them?
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