Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate romance, love and devotion. It is usually celebrated by giving friends, family and especially significant others flowers and gifts to show affection. Valentine's Day is celebrated in honor of St. Valentine, a third-century Roman saint associated with love and marriage.
The traditions of Valentine's Day date back to ancient Roman times. The Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia from February 13 to 15 yearly, including a matchmaking lottery in the festivities. In the fifth century, the Pope combined Saint Valentine's Day with the feast of Lupercalia and made it a day of fertility and love.
The tradition of written Valentine's Day cards began after 1400. The oldest written Valentine's Day greeting still in existence today dates back to 1415. It was written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. King Henry V also allegedly sent a Valentine written by a hired writer to Catherine of Valois.
Valentine's Day gained worldwide popularity in the 17th century. By this time it was a widespread practice for friends and lovers to send each other handwritten Valentine's Day cards and tokens of their affection. By 1900, printed cards began to gain popularity following major advances in large-scale printing technology.
Today Valentine's Day is celebrated throughout the world. Each year on the holiday, about 1 billion Valentine's Day cards are sent. Other popular Valentine's Day presents are chocolates, candy hearts, teddy bears, and other small tokens of affection. In the United States it's common for children to celebrate Valentine's Day by buying or making cards for other members of their class at school, and for couples to celebrate the day by going on dates and exchanging gifts.
Other countries have unique ways to celebrate Valentine's Day. In the Philippines, Feb. 14 is a popular date to get married or to renew vows. Couples gather together in mass wedding ceremonies in parks, malls, or other public areas to get married. In South Africa, women pin the name of their love interest on their shirtsleeves on Feb. 14, in a tradition known as Lupercalia.