Saint Valentine's Day, commonly shortened to Valentine's Day, [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] is an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. [ 1 ] [ 3 ] The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs, Saint Valentine, and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. It was deleted from the Roman calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, but its religious observance is still permitted. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.
Modern Valentine's Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. [ 4 ]
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Her father operated a large book and stationery store, but Howland took her inspiration from an English Valentine she had received from a business associate of her father. [ 38 ] [ 39 ] Intrigued with the idea of making similar Valentines, Howland began her business by importing paper lace and floral decorations from England. [ 39 ] [ 40 ] The English practice of sending Valentine's cards was established enough to feature as a plot device in Elizabeth Gaskell's Mr. Harrison's Confessions (1851): "I burst in with my explanations: '"The valentine I know nothing about." '"It is in your handwriting," said he coldly. [ 41 ] Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary." [ 37 ]
Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. [ 4 ] The mid-19th century Valentine's Day trade was a harbinger of further commercialized holidays in the United States to follow. [ 42 ]
In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts in the United States. Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped box. In the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as an occasion for giving jewelry.
The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. Half of those valentines are given to family members other than husband or wife, usually to children. When you include the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines. [ 36 ] In some North American elementary schools, children decorate classrooms, exchange cards, and are given sweets. The greeting cards of these students sometimes mention what they appreciate about each other.
The rise of Internet popularity at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions. Millions of people use, every year, digital means of creating and sending Valentine's Day greeting messages such as e-cards, love coupons or printable greeting cards. An estimated 15 million e-valentines were sent in 2010. [ 36 ]
There's a lot more at the wikipedia Valentines Day page