Valentine's Day has been celebrated since around the fourth century B.C. It is a day to remember two martyred Christians who were named Valentinus. Today, it is celebrated with the exchange of cards, confectionery and flowers between friends and loved ones.
There are multiple stories about the origins of Valentine's Day, none of which can be verified. The stories are associated with Christian martyrs, two of which were canonized by the Catholic Church and attained sainthood. In 496, Pope Gelasius I established the Feast of St. Valentine to honor these men, even though he acknowledged that their heroic acts were unknown to anyone but God.
Valentine's Day is celebrated to remember the martyred men for whom the holiday is named. It is commonly believed that these men died because they promoted love and romance.
There are many symbols used on Valentine's Day, most commonly a heart, cupid, bow and arrow, and red or pink roses. The red color and the heart symbol are reminders of the blood that was shed when the saints were executed. The cupid, bow and arrow are symbols associated with love and passion.
It is customary to exchange something on Valentine's Day with a loved one, friends and family. The most common gifts are Valentine cards, chocolates and flowers.
There are over 180 million Valentine's Day cards sent around the world each year, according to the U.S. Census. The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that women purchase 85 percent of these cards.