Valentine’s Day

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

Valentine’s Day, legends say, metamorphosed from a pagan fertility ritual to a commemoration of Christian martyrs named Valentine, and then to a saint’s day. Today, Valentine’s Day is an international lovers’ celebration and a candy sellers’ delight.

Possibly because of its hypothetical erotic origin, 14 February became associated with love by such writers as Chaucer and Shakespeare. By the eighteenth century, English sweethearts were exchanging handwritten Valentine’s Day love notes. By the nineteenth century, mass-produced paper-lace cards were fashionable in England and in the United States.