For most of us, Valentine’s Day is a beloved holiday that promises lots of sweets and inspires us to shower one another with our uninhibited affections.
But couples aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of Valentine’s Day. For retail and candy vendors, Valentine’s Day is a gold mine.
According to the National Retail Federation, only about 55% of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, but last year’s Valentine’s Day spending hit $19.7 billion, according to a 2016 article from Time magazine.
With so many people eager to buy gifts for their loved ones and demonstrate their heartwarming sentiments, it comes as no surprise that people are spending so much money every year.
However, not many people know the origins of Valentine’s Day. The story is told in a variety of different ways, and holds common themes of romantic love and faithful sacrifice.
The story began around 300 AD when Rome was under attack, prompting Pope Gelasius I to decree that soldiers could no longer be married.
Gelasius believed that marital unions sapped warriors of their strength and made them more vulnerable to their foes. The soldiers were understandably upset with the new decree.
Meanwhile, Valentine, the Bishop of Terni, began to perform the ceremony for the soldiers in secret, according to his faith. Gelasius found out, and had Valentine imprisoned. In prison, Valentine fell in love with the blind daughter of the guard.
Some say the guard asked Valentine to heal her, and he then fell in love with her. Others believe that Valentine and the girl began to fall in love first, before her healing.
Before his execution, the Pope offered Valentine a choice. He could live if he publicly admitted that he was wrong to have defied the Pope’s orders.
Valentine did not agree, and just before his death, he wrote a note to the woman he loved, signing it “From Your Valentine,” a phrase that now characterizes most Valentine’s Day letters.
The story may just be a pleasant fable, but it is certainly one worth reading.