Bob Howell

We are fast approaching the international holiday that celebrates love, candy and flowers. 

It's Valentine's Day.

I remember what the holiday was like in the early elementary school years. We would come to school armed with cut-out VD cards, and those chalky heart-shaped candies with writing on them. Paula (my lovely and talented bride) remembers taping paper bags to our desks that acted as a depository for hand-made cards from our classmates. It was a glorious, sugar high that lasted all day! Let's do this at least once a month, I thought.

This was all thanks to one or more men who were known as Saint Valentine. 

History.com writes that there is some confusion about which St. Valentine the holiday actually pays homage to. Historians are not absolutely sure which saint takes the honors as THE St. Valentine. 

History.com believes that there were at least two men who have become memorialized as the saint of love and romance.

One of the candidates for the honor was a priest in Rome in the third century. Legend has it that this Valentine defied Emperor Claudius II, who had banned marriage. Apparently, he believed the union of a man and woman was a distraction for Roman soldiers. Valentine sneaked around and married love-struck couples in defiance of the Emperor's ban. Eventually, Valentine was caught and given the death sentence.

Another version of the story has St. Valentine being executed for plotting to assist Christians escaping from Roman prisons. His death date? February 14th ... sound familiar? 

Other historians believe the 14th of February celebration of his death grew from a Pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, a February 15th celebration in ancient Rome. It was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. During the festival, animals were sacrificed and women were smacked with animal hides — thought to have increased their fertility.

Things started getting "official" in the fourth century when Pope Gelasius officially named February 14th as "Saint Valentine's Day." The romance and love aspect of the holiday didn't become officially associated with Valentine's Day until the Middle Ages. That's when many people in France and England believed that birds started their mating season on the 14th of February.

Cupid, the character frequently associated with love and romance, was first depicted as the cute, boyish imp in the fourth Century by the Greeks. It wasn't until the 1800s that Cupid became the symbol of St. Valentine's Day.

So, when did we get in the habit of sending out valentines on a mass scale? That would be in the 1840s when the "mother of the American Valentine," Esther Howland, came on the scene 

The giving of flowers on VD dates back to the late 1600s when Sweden's King Charles II started sending — among other kinds of flowers — red roses, which were symbolic of deep love.

Fast forward to the present. 

Americans spent at least $20 billion for Valentine's Day gifts in 2019, and $27.4 billion in 2020. (Things may have changed in the wake of Covid 19.) Last year, $2.4 billion was paid out for Valentine's Day candy alone. Men spent about $291 on the holiday while women spent $106 on the target pf their affection. 

And when it comes to Valentine's Day cards, Americans spend an estimated $145 million to express their affection in writing!

Let's not forget our pets on this holiday that's all about love and affection. The latest numbers I found show 27.6 million American households spent an estimated $751.3 million on gifts for pets on Valentine's Day. After all, what would it be like for our cats, dogs, gerbils and birds without us spending millions to express our love!

Meow and Woof!

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