Valentine's Day is believed to have it's roots in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. Sometime around 496, Pope Gelasius I renamed this pagan festival Valentine's Day and moved it to February 14.
According to the Ipsos-Insight for the American Floral Endowment's Consumer Tracking Study (2004), when a woman buys flowers on Valentine's Day she is most often buying them for herself (27%). Other common recipients include her mother (23%), her significant other (18%), her daughter (8%) or a friend (7%).
Although there were several St. Valentines, most scholars believe Valentine's Day was intended to honor a priest who attracted the displeasure of the Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. Claudius had come to the conclusion that single men made better soldiers, so he outlawed marriage for all young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of this decree, defied the order and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When his actions were discovered, Claudius II had him put to death.
Shakespeare refers to Valentine's Day in Hamlet (Act 4, Scene 5) when Ophelia sings:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
Starting in the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as occasion for the giving of fine jewelry. Chocolate and NECCO wafers have been around for well over a century, and E-Cards didn't become popular until the 1990s.