VALENTINE’S DAY. Everything you need to know about the most romantic day of the year! Valentine’s Day is hands down the most romantic holiday there is; it’s the day we celebrate love, organise candlelit dinners and give each other the most amazing gifts, going that extra mile to surprise our sweetheart. Yet the origins of this passion-fuelled celebration are somewhat tragic. Saint Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, was beheaded after unspeakable torture. Some say it was because he encouraged the love between a pagan legionary (Sabino) and a young Christian girl (Serapia), others that he celebrated a wedding, openly defying the ban imposed by Claudius II to perform them in war time because he believed men were more useful on the battlefield than at home with their wives. Although the origins of Valentine’s Day are tainted by bad luck, the same cannot be said for its evolution into a special day whose commercial value has, to an extent, unfortunately pushed its romantic overtones into the shadows. As early as the 19th century, a number of businessmen realized the potential profit this occasion offered and began producing “valentines”, Valentine’s Day cards portraying traditional romantic symbols – doves, hearts and Cupids - which they sold on an industrial scale. Halfway through the 20th century, the cards took second place to roses, jewellery and the old favourite, chocolates! How is Valentine’s Day celebrated around the world? Our French cousins, the masters of romance, give love letters, flowers, jewellery and chocolates. In England valentines, cards sent anonymously by secret admirers which cause a great deal of curiosity in those who receive them, are still very popular. The Welsh celebrate Valentine’s Day on 25 January, giving each other lovespoons, a tradition that dates back to the 17th century when suitors gave a carved wooden spoon to their chosen one to show they were able to provide for the family. Love is celebrated in Catalunya on a different day, 23 April, Saint George’s Day. Legend has it that Saint George saved a young woman from the clutches of a dragon. It is traditional for men to give their sweethearts roses and women to give them books. In Kenya women give their husbands a pumpkin filled with palm wine and receive a piece of lime bread in return. This meal is then enjoyed with them drinking together from a “cup of love”. In Brazil the day for lovers coincides with the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua on 12 June. Men who want to dance with their sweetheart must pass an endurance test, running nearly four miles carrying the trunk of a barauna. Only the winner earns the right to dance! In Asia, men give women a dress. If she agrees to wear it, it means she intends to marry her admirer. In South America, like in Scandinavia and some parts of the Netherlands, Friendship Day is celebrated on 14 February. Lastly, in the United States, Valentine’s Day is a celebration for everyone who loves and so celebrations involve the whole family. Strange statistics. 1) 11% of marriage proposals are made on Valentine’s Day. 2) Every year in the US, Americans spend 1.1 billion dollars on Valentine Day’s cards, 1.5 billion dollars on confectionery and 1.7 billion dollars on flowers. 3) The Italians are the most romantic consumers in the world. According to the Masterclass Love Index, in the run-up to 14 February, spending increases by 52%. What do you buy? Flowers, jewellery and experiences, like romantic stays in luxury hotels, to create unforgettable memories. 4) In the United States, 1 woman out of 7 buys herself flowers and gets them delivered to her home. After all, love also means loving yourself! 5) And if your partner tells you he doesn’t want anything, he’s probably lying. Only 25% of those who say they don’t want anything actually mean it. 6) Last but not least, 198,000,000 roses are grown for this day and 180 million cards are given. And the ideal gift? Spending time and showering love and attention on each other. What could be better than this simple yet perfect gift when you’re in love?