5 fascinating facts about Valentine's Day you probably didn't know

13 February 2018, 12:25

Love Hearts

Valentine's Day is one of those days where we all celebrate it (or hate it) without necessarily knowing what it's all about or how it started.

Is it just a pointless day created by greetings card companies? Who is this Valentine, anyway?

Behold these intriguing facts that might change the way you think about Valentine's Day forever...

1. How did Valentine's Day start?

The story goes that he idea of Valentine's Day is based on St Valentine of Rome, a priest who married couples against the emperor's orders, as married men couldn't be drafted.

This was at odds with Emperor Claudius Gothicus' plans to build an army of unemotional warriors. The essence of 'love' was essentially against the law, in a way. Valentine went against this, and apparently won the heart of his jailer's daughter along the way. Before his execution on February 14 in the year 269, he supposedly wrote her a letter signed 'Your Valentine' as a farewell.

However, Valentine may have been executed for more traditional theological debate reasons rather than the whole 'love' angle. A ban on Roman soldiers getting married never actually happened. Still, it makes for a 'nice' story.

Valentines Day card

2. When did the romantic angle start?

It was around 1,000 years after St Valentine's death before the day honouring him became a romantic affair. In the second half of the 14th century, the tradition started up thanks to the circle of writer Geoffrey Chaucer.

The first known reference was in Chaucer's poem Parliament of Foules, which includes the line:

"For this was on seynt Volantynys day,
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make".

By the 18th century, it had evolved into an occasion where lovers expressed their love by giving flowers, confectionary and greetings cards (known as 'Valentines'). In Europe, St Valentine's Keys were given to lovers "as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart", as well as to children, to ward off epilepsy.

3. Who was Valentine?

The interesting fact, is that we don't 100% know which Valentine we're celebrating. 

There were two Valentines in the era that the day could be related to. One of them - Valentine of Terni - was a bishop who is thought to have died at the same time in the same place as the official story. However, records of the time are seriously muddled, and historians know little about either one.

In fact, there were 14 Saints Valentin or Valentine, three of whom died on February 14. Now that's just confusing.

4. It technically doesn't exist anymore

As it was SO confusing to catalogue all these Valentines, by the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI eliminated all 12 feasts of St Valentine from the Liturgical Calendar. 

That means that Valentine's Day hasn't actually been St Valentine's Day since 1969. The rest of us have just been carrying along for the fun of it.

5. Vintage Valentine's Day cards were incredibly creepy

Back in the mid-20th century, Valentine's Day cards were bizarrely direct and aggressive. The notion of 'stealing' one's heart escalated to the point of kidnap, or worse.

A lot of these old cards featured guns, threatening behaviour or were just downright creepy, but they were all wrapped up in a 'isn't this cute' bow. Have a look at these monstrosities as examples:

Creepy Valentines cards

Shudder.