Valentine’s Day, the most romantic holiday of the year. What are you doing for Valentine’s this year?

I’m cooking my husband’s favorite dinner with his favorite wine.

Did you know Valentine’s Day originated as a Western Christian Feast Day honoring one or two saints named Valentinus. It is recognized as a significant cultural, religious and ‘commercial’ celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions around the world. It’s not a public holiday anywhere.

The day first became associated with romantic love when the tradition of courtly love flourished during the time of Chaucer. In 18th -century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering candy and sending greeting cards known as valentines. Since the 19th -century, handwritten valentines have given away to mass-produced greeting cards (which get more expensive each year).

In the United States, the first mass-produced Valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father operated a large book and stationery store, but Howland took her inspiration from an English Valentine she had received from a business associate of her father. Intrigued with the idea of making similar Valentines, Howland began her business by importing paper lace and floral decorations from England. Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual “Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary”.

In 1868, the British chocolate company Cadbury created Fancy Boxes — a decorated box of chocolates — in the shape of a heart for Valentine’s Day. Boxes of filled chocolates quickly became associated with the holiday. In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts, such as giving jewelry.

The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. Half of those valentines are given to family members other than husband or wife, usually to children. When the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities are included the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines. The average valentine’s spending has increased every year in the U.S, from $108 a person in 2010 to $131 in 2013.

The rise of Internet popularity at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions. Millions of people use, every year, digital means of creating and sending Valentine’s Day greeting messages such as e-cards, love coupons, or printable greeting cards. An estimated 15 million e-valentines were sent in 2010. Valentine’s Day is considered by some to be a Hallmark holiday due to its commercialization. (And thanks to Wikipedia for most of this information.)