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The History of Valentine’s Day Traditions

The History of Valentine’s Day Traditions

Valentine’s Day is a holiday that is widely celebrated across the world, with many countries putting their own cultural spin on it. Valentine’s Day is mostly recognized for central focus and celebration of romance and love.

Typically, gifts like cards, chocolates, flowers, and even jewelry are exchanged during this day.  

Additionally, these gift giving practices have been the tradition of February 14th for a very long time. However, giving roses and chocolates to a loved one wasn’t always the “norm” centuries ago. So, how exactly did Valentine’s Day come to be?

The History of Valentine’s Day

The history of Valentine’s Day actually stemmed from an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, which used to be celebrated around this time of year. The festival was outlawed and replaced with St. Valentine’s Day by the order of Pope Gelsius. It wasn’t until the 14th century that this day became the focus of romance. In fact, historians speculate that the poems of Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet, and the mating patterns of birds this time of year had a big influence in our modern day celebrations.

Moreover, Valentine’s Day didn’t became associated with gift giving and creating cards until the 18th century- which became a common practice in England, but the influence didn’t actually spread to America until Esther Howland, who completely changed the history of Valentine’s Day, began creating and mass producing cards right in Massachusetts.

The popularity spread quickly and even in our modern day, billions of cards are sold each year for Valentine’s Day- making it the second largest card buying holiday of the year, right behind Christmas.

Paper hearts on string with flowers.

Modern Day Traditions

It may be clear as to why the history of Valentine’s Day influenced popular card giving practices many of us partake in today, however, what about other common celebrations such as giving chocolates or even roses?

Chocolate giving actually started in the 19th century when Richard Cadbury produced a way to create economically inexpensive chocolates– during this time period chocolate was something someone with an upper class status could only afford. Additionally, he packaged the chocolates in boxes that adorned symbols of love such as, hearts and cupids. He was also the first to sell chocolates in heart shaped boxes. These became a huge hit during Valentine’s Day and completely influenced what we see on retail shelves today.

Roses on the other hand, have stood the tests of time, often symbolizing romance, love, and affection. However, their popularity didn’t take off until floriography (using flowers or floral arrangements to tell secret messages) was commonly practiced in the Victorian period.

The history of Valentine’s Day clearly takes its influence from different time periods, and it’s amazing how common practices centuries ago impacted how we celebrate the holiday today.

How do you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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