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History of Valentine’s Day

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The history of Valentine’s Day included teenage boys and pranks. Valentine’s Day originated from an ancient Roman festival, Lupercalia. The Romans celebrated Lupercalia on February 15 to gain fertility and keep out evil. The ritual consisted of two teen boys, clad in animal skins, running around the city slapping folks with strips of goatskin. The teenage boys impersonated male goats (an ancient embodiment of sexuality) and supposedly granted fertility to those struck by the goatskins.

In the fifth century, the Roman Catholic Church decided to absorb this pagan ritual into the Christina culture. The church, then led by Pope Gelasius I declared that this pagan festival be celebrated on February 14 and named St. Valentine's Day.

St. Valentine’s Day eventually became just another feast day until 1381. In 1381, Chaucer wrote a poem to honor of the engagement between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. In keeping with poetic tradition, Chaucer associated the engagement with the feat day St. Valentine’s Day. The poem begins:

For this was on St. Valentine's Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

Once the connection was made, lovers began to celebrate Valentine’s Day with small gifts and flowers. By the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become common in England. During the Victorian era, hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts were the rage. This tradition eventually spread to the American colonies. However, the tradition of Valentine's cards did not become widespread in the United States until Esther A. Howland began mass-producing Valentine’s Day cards in 1850.

From 1850 to current day, Valentine’s Day has become a booming commercial success. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards sent each year are valentines.

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