Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular in the calendar, and it is surrounded by legends and strange and interesting facts.
The origins of Valentine’s Day are lost in the mists of time and there are several legends about how this holiday began. It is most likely to have originated in the pagan fertility celebration of Lupercalia, and later purloined by Christians when Rome adopted that religion. It was then named after one of three Saint Valentines, who were coincidentally all martyred on February 14th.
Valentine’s Day Cards
Around a billion Valentine’s Day cards change hands in the U.S. alone each year, and more are sent to teachers than to any other group. In the U.S about three percent of pet owners buy cards for their pets. While traditionally Valentine’s Day cards were sent anonymously, today most senders make themselves known.
The heart is associated with Valentine’s Day because in early times the soul was believed to be located in the heart. The heart was thought of as the seat of human emotions, reasoning and intellectual thought. It remains a symbol of love and is often red, like the blood pumped by the heart.
A house in the Italian city of Verona, in which Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set, receives hundreds of letters and cards addressed to Juliet each year. The letters are answered by volunteers belonging to Verona’s Juliet Club. On Valentine’s Day they run a contest to choose the most moving letters.
Bird’s Wedding Day
There are legends that the Romans thought February 14 was the day birds mated, and in parts of Sussex in England, the holiday is known as the Bird’s Wedding Day.
First Bird Seen
Legend has it that the first bird a single woman sees on Valentine’s Day determines what kind of man she will marry. Legends vary from place to place, but a sparrow seems to always mean a farmer or a poor man and a yellow bird such as a goldfinch indicates a rich man (and more yellow means more money). Some think a bird of prey means she will marry a business man or politician, and most agree a woodpecker or owl means she will stay single.
Valentine’s Day was first proclaimed a holiday in 1537, by England’s King Henry VIII.
Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve
In England during the Middle Ages, it is thought that young people drew names out of a bowl or hat to choose their valentine. They then pinned a piece of paper with the name on it to their sleeve and wore it for a week. This led to the term wearing your heart on your sleeve.
The rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman God of Love, which is why this flower has come to be associated with Valentine’s Day. Red roses are the most often sent, and this is because red is associated with blood and the heart, once thought to be the source of emotions such as love and passion. Yellow roses are symbols of friendship, white of love and devotion, and red of love and passion.