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Happy Valentine's Day 2020! Who was St Valentine and why do we celebrate on February 14?

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 4 days ago Tom Herbert
a person sitting at a table © Provided by Evening Standard

From naff cards to ostentatious flower bouquets - Valentine's Day may be cheesy, but there's no doubting people love it.

Valentine's Day may be something that Chaucer made up nearly 700 years ago, but even today it's still heralded as the most romantic day of the year.

But what is Valentine's Day, and why do we celebrate it?

Here's all you need to know.

a dog lying on a pile of stuffed animals: Everyone loves Valentine's Day (Shutterstock / Javier Brosch) © Provided by Evening Standard Everyone loves Valentine's Day (Shutterstock / Javier Brosch)

Where did Valentine’s Day come from and who was Saint Valentine?

As with any long-standing tradition, the origin of Valentine's Day is particularly murky.

But it is possible to trace the day's origins to the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a spring festival which fell on February 15.

When Christianity was introduced, the Roman holiday moved to February 14 to coincide with a feast day in which Christians commemorated a number of early saints called Valentine.

Popular belief has it that one of these martyrs, Saint Valentine of Rome, was priest who defied an order from emperor Claudius in the third century AD by arranging secret marriages for soldiers forbidden to marry.

For that, Valentine was condemned to death and thrown in jail, but not before he performed a miracle by restoring sight to his jailor's blind daughter, to whom he later left a note signed "Your Valentine".

But it wasn't until the 14th century that Valentine's Day came to be associated with romantic love, when Geoffrey Chaucer honoured the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia with a poem which quickly caught the public's imagination.

What are typical Valentine’s Day traditions in the UK?

a group of colorful flowers: Roses are a traditional gift for Valentine's Day (PA Archive/PA Images) © Provided by Evening Standard Roses are a traditional gift for Valentine's Day (PA Archive/PA Images)

Cards, flowers, chocolates, romantic mini-breaks, meals for two - you name it, anything even vaguely romantic will be looked upon fondly on February 14.

In fact, any romantic stereotype you can think of is popular on Valentine's Day - think teddy bears with saccharine love messages or anything heart-shaped.

Valentine's Day cards have traditionally always been sent anonymously while trips to Paris to celebrate in the city of love are always popular.

Meanwhile, many couples opt to eschew their mediocre midweek dinner and eat out on Valentine's Day, while gifts for a partner range from perfume to shoes and lingerie.

Gallery: 20 of the most romantic places in the world to propose [Photos]


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