Ten interesting facts about Valentine’s Day

By Chebet Korir
Wednesday, February 12th, 2020
Ancient RomeValentine celebrations.

With the big day right around the corner, every street in Nairobi will be swamped by red roses, gift cards, cuddly teddy bears and lots of red outfits. Although many people celebrate it, not all of them know these interesting facts about the day seen to belong to lovers, as broken down by our writer, Chebet Korir

It has dark origins

The popular belief about St Valentine is that he was a priest from Rome in the third century AD. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage because he thought married men were bad soldiers.

Valentine felt this was unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret. When Claudius found out, he threw Valentine in jail and sentenced him to death.

It was alleged that young couples would visit him with flowers and cards. He later was killed on 14 February.

It was linked to fertility

Historians believe Valentine’s Day began in Ancient Rome as a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, with the celebration dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

The day was celebrated with activities that included sacrificing animals and whipping women with animal skins until they bled, signifying their fertility.

First Valentine love letter was written from prison

History’s first valentine was written in perhaps one of the most unromantic places conceivable: prison.

Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote the love letter to his second wife aged 21 after being captured at the Battle of Agincourt.

As a prisoner for more than 20 years, he would never see his valentine’s reaction to the poem he penned to her in the early 15th century.

Cupid’s bow and arrow aren’t just for show

The chubby baby with wings, a bow and arrow we call Cupid has been associated with Valentine’s Day for centuries.

However, before he was renamed Cupid, he was known to the ancient Greeks as Eros, the god of love.

Eros, the son of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, would use two sets of arrows; one for love and another for hate to play with the emotions of his targets.

It wasn’t until stories of his mischief were told by Romans that he adopted the childlike appearance we recognise today.

The first heart-shaped box of chocolates was introduced in 1861

Richard Cadbury, son of Cadbury founder John Cadbury, started packaging chocolates in fancy boxes to increase sales.

He introduced the first heart-shaped box of chocolates for V-Day in 1861, and today, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are sold each year. 

One million cards are exchanged

Quite unbelievable but Valentine`s Day is the second most popular day of the year for sending cards, second only to Christmas.

Approximately one billion cards exchanged in the US alone and over 1,000 letters are sent to Juliet, the Shakespearean character in Romeo and Juliet in the city of Verona, Italy. 

You can celebrate it several times a year

Because of the abundance of St. Valentines on the Roman Catholic roster, you can choose to celebrate the saint multiple times each year.

Besides February 14, you might decide to celebrate St. Valentine of Viterbo on November 3 or St Valentine of Raetia on January 7.

Women might choose to honour the only female St Valentine (Valentina), a virgin martyred in Palestine on July 25, AD 308.

The Eastern Orthodox Church officially celebrates St Valentine twice, once as an elder of the church on July 6 and once as a martyr on July 30.

Wearing your heart on your sleeve

The term “wearing your heart on your sleeve” may have origins in picking a valentine.

It was reported men would draw names of women they would be coupled with for the upcoming year while attending a Roman festival honouring Juno, the Goddess of women and marriage.

After choosing, the men wore the names on their sleeves to show their bond during the festivities.

Wearing red symbolises confidence 

Red has long been considered the colour of passion and sexuality. A study by University of Rochester psychologists found that men viewed women wearing red or standing in front of a red background as significantly more attractive and sexually desirable than women wearing or standing in front of different colours.

Women felt the same way about men wearing red. The colour also symbolises confidence, spontaneity, and determination, all important factors in a romantic pursuit.

Roses convey a special kind of message 

Back in the Victorian era, people expressed their emotions through floriography or the language of flowers.

Giving a certain kind of flower conveyed a specific message, and red roses meant romance. Today, they carry that same symbol of romance and they’re cheap.