Historical & Current Events dictionary

Valentine’s Day

or Valentines Day or Valentine Day

What does Valentine’s Day mean?

Valentine’s Day is an annual holiday recognized around the world. It celebrates romantic love, making it a popular day for couples to spend together. Valentine’s Day is traditionally associated with red hearts, romance, flowers, candy or other sweet things, and the exchange of cards, called valentines, that express love.

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Examples of Valentine’s Day
“Most people agree that Valentine's Day is a good, if somewhat random, opportunity to shower loved ones with affection. At the same time, people also seem to resent the holiday's obligatory nature.”
Valentine's Day Isn't About Love—It's About Obligation, “Olga Khazan,” The Atlantic (February 14, 2014)
St. Valentine's Day, happens this Tuesday on February 14. It's a day where people show their love and affection for another person - usually in the form of cards, flowers, gifts and messages.”
Cameron Macphail and Saffron Alexander, “Valentine's Day 2017: What has it got to do with love? And who was St Valentine?” The Telegraph (February 14, 2017)
“It’s also a day to spend money. The National Retail Federation said Americans were projected to spend $18.2 billion, or an average $136.57 per person, on things like candy, flowers, cards and fancy dinners for Valentine’s Day this year.”
Liam Stack, “Valentine’s Day: Did It Start as a Roman Party or to Celebrate an Execution?” The New York Times (February 14, 2017)
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Where does Valentine’s Day come from?
Valentine's Day

The story of Valentine’s Day dates back to the life of St. Valentine, a Roman Catholic martyr who died in the third century. Although the facts of St. Valentine’s life are murky (some sources say he was persecuted for performing forbidden marriages, while others say he helped Christians refugees escape Roman violence), he is consistently presented as a moral, generous, and romantic person. One legend holds that St. Valentine became friendly with his jailer’s daughter and wrote her a note signed “From your Valentine,” which remains a popular phrase associated with Valentine’s Day.

There is some controversy over how Valentine’s Day first became associated with romance and the celebration of lovers. Some scholars point to Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century poem, The Parliament of Fowls, which praises Valentine’s Day as a time when birds choose their mates and love is remembered even in the cold of winter. Others believe Valentine’s Day is the Christian version of a pagan fertility holiday called Lupercalia, which was celebrated by the Romans.

Either way, the romantic meaning of Valentine’s Day has existed since the Middle Ages, and gained popularity as a gift-giving event for aristocrats in 18th-century England and America. The first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were created by Esther Howland in the 1840s. Since then a large industry has developed around the making and selling of Valentine’s Day products like flowers, cards, and candies.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of Valentine’s Day like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Valentine’s Day that will help our users expand their word mastery.