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When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men in order to ensure his supply of soldiers.
A priest named Valentine or Valintinus, it is said, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When word of Valentine's matrimonies leaked out, Claudius ordered that he be put to death on February 14, 269 A.D.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
Sending valentines (gifts or greetings) to your sweetheart became a popular custom sometime in the eary 1600s; The first commercial cards appeared around 1800 and were usually sent anonymously.
As early as 1822, an English official reported having to hire extra postal workers on this day.
American consumers are expected to spend approximately $8 billion on Valentine's Day gifts in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. That's an average of $168 per shopper. In 2011, approximately 200 million roses were sold, according to The Society of American Florists.
The first literary association of Valentine's Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
The poem was composed in honor of the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia.
Most readers of the poem incorrectly assume that Chaucer is referring to February 14 as Valentine's Day. Mid-February, however, is an unlikely time for birds to be mating in England.
It is more likely that he is referring to May 2, the liturgical calendar's saints' day for Valentine of Genoa, an early bishop who died around AD 307.
This kind of floral code, known as "florigraphy," was especially popular among the romantics of Victorian England about a hundred years ago. Each flower and tree had a meaning all its own. Presenting sprigs or blooms from a given plant was a shorthand way of saying "it was love at first sight!" (thornless roses) or "I am your slave forever" (wild geraniums).
Read more about how to Say It With Flowers
Love Yourself First
In order to create healthy relationships with others, you must love yourself first, says author Ember Grant in Llewellyn's 2013 Witches' Spell-A-Day Almanac, offering a Valentine's Day spell for self-love.
"For this spell you will need a mirror and a fragrance that is special to you: a perfume, incense, or essential oil.
"First, pamper yourself today. Treat yourself to a nice meal, a walk in the woods, a massage - whatever brings you joy.
"Look at yourself in the mirror. Speak out loud the things you love about yourself - not just physical characteristics but also personal ones. Inhale the aroma you selected as you look at yourself in the mirror and name your beautiful qualities. Chant:
I see myself, and I see love.
I love myself and take care of
My body, mind, and soul -
To be happy and be whole.
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