Why do we send cards on Valentine’s Day?

Some interesting facts and information on the history of Valentine’s Day

Ever wondered where the traditions of Valentine’s Day come from? And why is it we exchange cards, hearts, flowers and chocolates? According to research approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine's Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas. The day is actually named after Saint Valentine himself (in Latin, Valentinus). The name "Valentine", derived from valens (worthy, strong and powerful).

The tradition to confess your “desire or love” for someone on Valentines Day or to even send a card comes from the legend himself Saint Valentine when he sent the first card ever whilst in prison. It is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl—who may have been his jailor's daughter—who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind sending Valentine’s card is a little dark it is easy to understand why the tradition has been carried on with the need to express “deep romance” or one’s “undying love” in fear that the desired will never hear the words, and what better way to do it than to send a card!

Interestingly, February has always been considered to be a month of romance because of the history of Valentines Day and the romantic stories and myths that have been carried throughout history containing vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. Also, February was the official beginning of Spring and was considered a time for purification where new love could blossom just like the trees and plants.
However, some people believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial—( around 270 A.D) and then others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to "christianize" celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.

According to the Catholic Church at least three different saints were named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. Another legend argues that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men—his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured but the story that seems to carry most truth is that Valentine himself had a strong desire to send a card to the girl he had fallen for, as it was his only way of communication.

Great Britain started to celebrate Valentines Day around the seventeenth century and then by the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes and then soon after printed cards began to replace written letters. The reason people seem to love sending cards is because it is a simple, yet expressive way to let go of one’s feelings without actually having to say anything verbally and this is one of the main reasons why we still continue to send out colourful cards to each other, whether it’s just for fun or for the hope of a return.


According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)

Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
The first recorded association of Valentine's Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer -Chaucer wrote:

"For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make".

The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day at the end of the 5th century. The Roman "lottery" system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February — Valentine's Day — should be a day for romance.



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