Valentine’s Day In The UK

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day in your country? In the UK it’s the most romantic day of the year. Celebrated on February 14th each year, Valentine’s Day is the traditional day on which people express their love for each other by sending cards, flowers, chocolates or other romantic gifts.

Origins Of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has been linked to both the pagan festival of Lupercalia, and Christianity.

Lupercalia was a very ancient, Roman pastoral festival, observed from February 13th-15th, which aimed to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. This was achieved by the young men stripping naked and using goat- or dog-skin whips to spank the backsides of young women!

In Christian history, there are at least three Saint Valentines who are associated with 14th February. Most experts believe the actual one remembered on Valentine’s Day was a Christian known as Valentine of Terni, who was martyred in the reign of Emperor Aurelian for refusing to give up Christianity. According to legend, he died on 14th February, but that may have been a later embellishment.

Some time around AD 496, the Pope Gelasius declared 14th February to be Saint Valentine’s Day, a Christian feast day. This was likely to have been a simple merging of the pagan and Christian festivals.

What Happens On Valentine’s Day In The UK?

Each year in the UK, we spend around £880m on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts for Valentine’s Day. Traditionally these were sent anonymously, but nowadays we often make it clear who is sending each ‘Valentine’:


  • Sending a written Valentine’s message to a loved one is a custom that began in the 1400’s, though cards have only been mass-produced since the 1800’s.
  • Couples give cards to each other, but it is also traditional to send an anonymous card to anyone you secretly love.
  • Valentine’s cards sometimes feature a poem. Probably the most famous lines from a Valentine’s Day poem are: ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, and so are you.’
  • Many people now send e-cards, rather than printed greeting cards.

Mobile Love

  • Valentine’s Day text messages include:
    • WUBMV – will you be my Valentine
    • xoxoxoxoxo – hugs and kisses
    • LUWAM<3 – love you with all my heart
    • ImRdy4Luv – I’m ready for love
    • :’-) – I’m so happy, I’m crying
    • ILUVU – I love you


  • Traditionally, people give a gift to their loved one on Valentine’s Day.
  • Popular choices include: red roses, chocolates, a CD of romantic songs, jewellery, a photo frame or perfume.
  • More expensive choices might include: a helicopter flight, a balloon ride, a weekend away or a visit to a spa.

Valentine’s Day Superstitions & Traditions

There are many traditions and superstitions associated with romantic activities on Valentine’s Day, including:

  • If the names of all a girl’s suitors were written on paper and wrapped in clay and the clay put into water, the piece that rose to the surface first would contain the name of her husband-to-be
  • The first man an unmarried woman saw on 14th February would be her future husband
  • If a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor; if she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy; if she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a rich person.
  • In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names/favours from a bowl to see who their Valentine would be. They would wear these favours on their sleeves for one week. This is where the phrase ‘to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve’ is thought to have come from.
  • In Wales, wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favourite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, ‘you unlock my heart’

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