Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a festival that cherishes love and romance. The festival falls on February 14 every year and is celebrated in several countries across the world including US, UK, Canada, Japan, France, China and India. Though the festival commemorates the martyrdom of a Christian saint called St Valentine, the festival as it is celebrated today has little religious significance. In present times, Valentine's Day has assumed a secular and global flavor and is celebrated by people of all ages and races.

Another noticeable factor in Valentine's Day celebration of present times is that the festival celebrates love in all its forms and is not just restricted to romantic love. People therefore exchange Valentine's Day greetings with their parents, teachers, siblings, friends, sweethearts or anyone special or close to them. The commonest way of expressing love on Valentine's Day is through exchanging cards, flowers and chocolates.

Valentine's Day is celebrated in a big way in several countries across the globe. Days before the festival markets wear a festive look. Shops selling gifts and cards are especially decorated with Valentine's Day symbols of roses, hearts, cupids and lovebirds. Aggressive marketing campaign by cards and gift marketers create hype for the festivals. On February 14, the spirit of love pervades the very atmosphere. One can find couples thronging parks, restaurants, malls and multiplexes holding hands and expressing love for each other.

St. Valentine's Day falls on February 14, and is the traditional day on which lovers in certain cultures let each other know about their love, commonly by sending Valentine's cards, which are often anonymous. The history of Valentine's day can be traced back to an obscure Catholic Church feast day, said to be in honor of Saint Valentine. The day's associations with romantic love arrived after the High Middle Ages, during which the concept of romantic love was formulated.

The day is now most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of "valentines." Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, the practice of hand writing notes has largely given way to the exchange of mass-produced greeting cards. The Greeting Card Association estimates that, world-wide, approximately one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association also estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

Valentine's Day was probably imported into North America in the 19th century with settlers from Britain. In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland (1828 – 1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father operated a large book and stationery store, and she took her inspiration from an English valentine she had received. (Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary".)

In the United States in the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to include the giving of all manner of gifts, usually from a man to a woman. Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates. Starting in the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as an occasion for giving fine jewelry.

In 1929 due to tensions between gangs in Chicago, members of a gang led by Al Capone killed several members of Bugs Moran's gang in what became known as the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.

The day has come to be associated with a generic platonic greeting of "Happy Valentine's Day."

Those without a significant other often speak with sarcasm by referring to Valentine's Day as "Singles' Awareness Day".

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