Valentine's Day cards were already popular in 1919, when this adorable doughboy sent his love a puppy.

Illustration by the A. M. Davis Co., courtesy Library of Congress

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    On February 14, the western world celebrates Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day (named after an obscure Christian saint) was first associated with romantic love by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382.
     
    The tradition of expressing love on Valentine’s Day began in European courts in the Middle Ages, and thrived with the development of paper Valentine’s Day cards in the 19th century. Today, the Greeting Card Association sells more than 145 million Valentine’s Day cards every year. 
     
    Although Valentine’s Day is primarily a Western European holiday, businesses have established the tradition of sending cards, flowers, and other gifts throughout Latin America and eastern Asia as well. The holiday’s association with Christianity and its outward expression of affection make Valentine’s Day a contentious holiday in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, however.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    associate Verb

    to connect.

    Christianity Noun

    religion based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

    contentious Adjective

    often leading to argument.

    court Noun

    monarch or other noble person and the group of people who serve, advise, and consult with them, or the place where this group meets.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    Islam Noun

    religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.

    Latin America Noun

    South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

    Middle Ages Noun

    (500-1500) period in European history between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance.

    obscure Adjective

    vague or unknown.

    saint Noun

    holy person in Christian religions.

    thrive Verb

    to develop and be successful.

    West Noun

    having to do with the developed nations of Europe and North America.