IT is a tradition that first began being celebrated more than 1500 years ago and now love it or loathe it, it’s Valentine’s Day again.

Come on, it’s a Hallmark day all about money?

Those who loathe the day do argue that it’s simply fabricated to energise retail amid the post-Christmas slump and bring in lucrative business for card firms and chocolate companies, but the practice of sending cards to sweethearts on the day is ancient.

Beginning when?

The day of celebration it is said to date back to Roman times when a festival – Lupercalia – was held on February 15, to avert evil spirits, purify the city and mark the official start of spring. As part of the festivities, boys drew names of a girl from a jar and they were boyfriend and girlfriend for the duration of the festival, sometimes going on to marry.

But it was gory?

Lupercalia rituals included animal sacrifice – sometimes the sacrifice of male goats, who were regarded as fertility symbols – whose hides would be cut into strips and used to lash women nearby in a "fertility consecration".

So at least modern day valentine’s traditions are not as intense.

When did St Valentine come into it?

At the end of the fifth century, in 496, Pope Gelasius replaced Lupercalia with St Valentine’s Day, thought to be in memory of a third century martyred priest in Rome, although there were two other martyred priests associated with the date, all called Valentine. But it is assumed to be the young priest who became notorious in 270 that the day is based on.


He conducted illegitimate wedding ceremonies in Rome, after Emperor Claudius declared that all marriages of younger citizens would be outlawed, in the belief that married men made terrible soldiers. Valentine continued to wed couples in secret and he was ultimately beheaded for his betrayal.

Legend has it?

On the evening of his execution, a note was passed to his jailer’s daughter reading “from your Valentine” and the story has blossomed from there. In 1537, King Henry VIII decreed by Royal Charter that the country would mark February 14 as Saint Valentine’s Day and by the early 19th century, the practice of celebrating romance on the date had taken over most of the English-speaking world.


An estimated one billion cards are sent globally each year, making it the second biggest card-sending celebration of the year behind Christmas.


Red roses were the favoured flower of the Roman goddess of love, Venus. Each year, around 50 million roses are received on Valentine’s Day around the world.

Heart-shaped chocolate boxes?

British chocolate manufacturer Richard Cadbury first gifted chocolates to his beloved in a heart-shaped box in 1868, marketing them as ideal boxes to go on to store mementos such as love letters and locks of hair.

Anti-Valentine’s Day?

Is tomorrow, with Single’s Awareness Day (or SAD) officially taking place, although many choose to celebrate it on the 14th as a protest. Thought to have begun in 2005, according to the National Day Calendar, the day “declares to the world that there is nothing wrong with being single”.