That's what my kiddos call Valentine's Day, at least. And I think it a wholly appropriate moniker. So who started this lovely tradition of roses and chocolates and singles being keenly aware they have no one to give them such goodies? Good question. Turns out its far more complicated than I thought.
There is a Saint Valentine. In fact, there are several. We have our pick of three associated with the date February 14. So little is known about them that the Catholic church removed them from the calendar of saints in 1969. He was either a priest in Rome, the bishop of Interamna or a martyr in Africa. In none of these cases is he associated with romantic love or lovers.
Some have said the association of Saint Valentine's Day with romantic love is another example of the early church tying a saint's day to a pagan celebration but this has been disputed. Some try to pin the blame of Geoffrey Chaucer for his poem Parlement of Foules which mentions Valentine's Day. However, a closer read suggests that this Valentine's Day is in May not February. Cause, you know, there was another Saint Valentine's whose feast day was May 2. Valentine used to be a really popular name in late antiquity. So, there's a few of them who made it to Saint. Go figure.
Anyway, the tradition of associating Saint Valentine's feast day with romantic love seems to have come about in the Middle Ages in France and England. Courtly love was big in those days and with the influence of Chaucer and others, Saint Valentine's Day slowly grew into its association with romantic love.
But what really isn't in dispute is that we owe a woman for the headache and heartache that afflicts the singles of America on February 14. Esther Howland is credited with reinventing Valentine's Day in the 1840s. Her father owned a large book and stationery store and she sold the first Valentine's cards. She took her inspriation from one she received from England. The Greeting Card Association thinks so highly of Miss Howland that they've named an award after her; the Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary given annually.
From these humble beginnings has spawned the second largest card-sending holiday. Only Christmas tops it.
Different countries, especially ones without a strong Christian tradition, celebrate Valentine's Day differently or not at all. My favorite is South Korea. There is a day on the 14th of every month associated with love: Candle Day, Valentine's Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day. So, women give men chocolate on Valentine's Day, men give women non-chocolate candy on White Day and those who got nothing the two previous months eat black noodles and "mourn" their single life on Black Day.
Now that's a true Singles Awareness Day.