Annually on February 14
Secular and religious holiday (Christian & Pagan)
Celebrated worldwide (Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, England, France, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, United States & Wales)
Valentine’s Day is a time to honor and celebrate love in all its forms. Traditionally (since around the 14th century!), the holiday has mostly been associated with couple-kind of love, but in recent years (thankfully), Valentine’s Day has moved beyond its heteronormative marketing to ultimately recognize all the ways we give and receive love in our daily lives and practices.
If you’ve ever received a giant heart-shaped box of chocolates, you know that Valentine’s Day has always been a prime opportunity for exchanging candy, love notes, appreciation, and a chance to spend time one-on-one, whether that’s with your partner or your best friend.
Food: Conversation heart candy (aka Sweethearts®), heart-shaped box of chocolates, cupid corn (seasonal candy corn), Hershey Kisses, boozy chocolate fondue, chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry cheesecake, red velvet cake, cupcakes, and cookies.
Steakhouses and wineries are popular, while French, Italian, and Spanish restaurants are top choices. Meals often include steak with peppercorn sauce, beef Wellington, sea bass, and spaghetti carbonara.
Drinks: A variety of sexy cocktails and all types of champagne and wine, such as Rosé and French champagne, Italian prosecco, Spanish cava, and rosé sparkling wine.
Valentine’s Day is also referred to as “St. Valentine’s Day” or the “Feast of St. Valentine.” The holiday is named for one of the most popular Christian martyrs, Saint Valentine. There are several legends about a couple St. Valentines: a priest signed a love letter, “From your Valentine,” and a bishop of Terni named St. Valentine. Some believe St. Valentine secretly married Christian couples, which defied the Roman Emperor Claudius II’s orders banning marriage, which resulted in his death on February 14 around 270 A.D.
While the origin of Valentine’s Day is unclear, the holiday is thought to have roots in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which dates back to the 6th century B.C., held annually on February 15 to promote fertility and the beginning of spring. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia (one of the few Pagan holidays celebrated 150 years after Christianity was legalized) with a Christian celebration. The Catholic church declared February 14 as their feast day to celebrate Saint Valentine circa 496 A.D.
In the 14th century, Valentine’s Day became known as a day of romance and formal messages began in the 1500s. Commercially printed Valentine’s cards started in the late 1700s and later in the mid-1800s in the United States. Cupid, the Roman god of love, is often depicted on these cards.
Violet bouquets, representing love and affection, were the first flowers given on Valentine’s Day. The tradition of giving red roses, expressing love and passion, started in the late 1700s by King Charles II of Sweden. Flowers became synonymous with Valentine’s Day because of their long history of symbolizing fertility, love, romance and marriage. Sending floral bouquets to deliver messages to someone special is an old-fashioned custom dating back to Victorian times. This nonverbal communication has its own language called floriography, where each flower has a specific meaning to express feelings—yellow pansy signifies “I love you truly,” hyacinth means “your loveliness charms me,” and red tulip says, “I declare my love.”
A new holiday, Galentine’s Day (a combination of Valentine’s Day with gal), emerged in 2010 on the TV show Parks and Recreation. It is all about celebrating your BFFs on February 13 (Valentine’s Day-eve). The television shows lead character Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, popularized Galentine’s Day when she said, “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus, frittatas.” Galentine’s Day has evolved to celebrate all types of friendship.