Gareth Edwards: Getting to the Heart of Valentine’s Day

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IT is a tradition that stretches its roots all the way back to a persecuted Christian executed by the Roman empire – and which today is a multibillion pound industry that delights and distresses lovers around the world.

While there were numerous Christian martyrs named Valentine, the story which has spawned the international day of romance – and helped to bolster the sales of red roses and chocolate – is that of a priest near Rome in 270 AD who was working to help Christians to escape persecution, Saint Valentine was captured and refused to convert to paganism, sealing his fate. Before he was executed however he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius, and written her a farewell note saying “from your Valentine”.

From that note an industry was born – and as our panels show, Valentine’s Day continues the thrive.

• Thornton’s will produce An extra one billion individual chocolates to cater for the increased demand from people at Valentine’s Day

• “Illicit affairs” webSites suggest thousands of men will manage to spend vaLeNtine’s with their partner and their mistress

• In Denmark men send a gaekkebrev (or “joking letter”). If the lady guesses the name of the sender, she gets an Easter Egg later in the year

• This Valentine’s day will provide a £978 million boost to the economy

• Most men have admitted that they will spend more on Valentine’s this year – To make up for the strain placed on their relationship by the recession

• University sweethearts Prince william and the Duchess of Cambridge topped a list of Britain’s most romantic couples – beating the Queen and the duke of Edinburgh into third place

• The British spend about £30 million on Valentine’s flowers, including around seven million red roses

• In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 and March 14. on the first date, the female gives a gift to a man and on the second date, the man will return that gift

• The oldest valentine still in existence today is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London

• The Royal Mail says the volume of local post increases 4.10% at this time of year, higher than the UK average increase of 3.43%

• The most expensive Valentine’s gift is believed to have been a heart-shaped 56 carat diamond sold at auction for £7m in 2011

• 15 per cent of British women just want to hear their partner say “I Love You” this valentine’s day

• A quarter of scots are expected to send a love letter

• The most popular gifts bought by women include aftershave, cuddly toys and, perhaps surprisingly, video games

• Men will spend an average of £39.57 on their Valentine, while women will spend just over half as much – £22.64

• It’s fitting that people are being encouraged to help give the gIFT of life by signing loved ones up to a First Aid Course with St Andrew’s First Aid

• In the Middle Ages, men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would wear this name pinned on to their sleeves – hence the expression “to wear your heart on your sleeve”

• The worst valentine present, accordIng to a survey, is cheap flowers bought from a petrol station

• The world’s most expensive Valentine’s Day card dates back to 1790, and is a handmade puzzle which unfolds to reveal poetic messages. It is worth an estimated £4000

• The most popular gifts being bought by men this year are flowers and chocolates – with lingerie a lowly sixth in the top ten