To quote Burt Bacharach: what do you get when you fall in love? During the month we celebrate St Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d take a closer look at this question and tell you about some quirky St Valentine’s Day facts…
- It is thought the origins of St Valentine’s Day date back to 270 AD when Claudius II reigned over the Roman Empire. He outlawed marriage amongst his soldiers, believing single men made better warriors. But Bishop Valentine went against his wishes and married couples in secret. When Claudius discovered this, he had the bishop arrested. Whilst in prison, Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and on the day of his execution wrote her one final love letter which he signed: “From your Valentine”. He was beheaded on 14 February.
- Bishop Valentine’s execution coincided with the pagan festival of Lupercalia, dedicated to Juno, the goddess of women and fertility, when boys were encouraged to draw from a jar the names of girls written on slips of paper. Wanting to replace pagan festivities with Christian holidays, Pope Gelasius set aside the day to honour St Valentine in 496. The saint gradually became adopted as the patron saint of lovers.
- In 1537, King Henry VIII officially made 14 February the holiday of St Valentine. It remained a part of the Catholic Church’s calendar until 1969.
- During the 1700s in England, on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day, girls would pin four bay leaves to thier pillows and eat a hard-boiled egg, including the shell. Supposedly whichever boy she dreamt of that night would soon be her husband.
- The first box of St Valentine’s Day chocolates was introduced by Richard Cadbury in 1868.
- Around the world, some one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.
- Verona, the Italian city in which Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet is set, receives around 1,000 letters every Valentine’s Day addressed to Juliet.
- In the United States, approximately nine million people will buy their pets a Valentine’s Day gift.
- In Welsh tradition, a calf born on St Valentine’s Day would be unsuitable for breeding, while any eggs laid by hens would be rotten. A child born on 14 February would, however, have many lovers.
- A group of feminists set up an alternative to St Valentine’s Day in 2003. It is called Quirkyalone Day and is intended for those who wish to “resist the tyranny of coupledom.”
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