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Happy Valentine's Day 2020! Who was St Valentine and why do we celebrate on February 14?

From naff cards to ostentatious flower bouquets - Valentine's Day may be cheesy, but there's no doubting people love it. Valentine's Day may be something that Chaucer made up nearly 700 years ago, but even today it's still heralded as the most romantic da

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From naff cards to ostentatious flower bouquets - Valentine's Day may be cheesy, but there's no doubting people love it.

Valentine's Day may be something that Chaucer made up nearly 700 years ago, but even today it's still heralded as the most romantic day of the year.

But what is Valentine's Day, and why do we celebrate it?

Here's all you need to know.

Everyone loves Valentine's Day (Shutterstock / Javier Brosch)

Where did Valentine’s Day come from and who was Saint Valentine?

As with any long-standing tradition, the origin of Valentine's Day is particularly murky.

But it is possible to trace the day's origins to the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a spring festival which fell on February 15.

When Christianity was introduced, the Roman holiday moved to February 14 to coincide with a feast day in which Christians commemorated a number of early saints called Valentine.

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Popular belief has it that one of these martyrs, Saint Valentine of Rome, was priest who defied an order from emperor Claudius in the third century AD by arranging secret marriages for soldiers forbidden to marry.

For that, Valentine was condemned to death and thrown in jail, but not before he performed a miracle by restoring sight to his jailor's blind daughter, to whom he later left a note signed "Your Valentine".

But it wasn't until the 14th century that Valentine's Day came to be associated with romantic love, when Geoffrey Chaucer honoured the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia with a poem which quickly caught the public's imagination.

What are typical Valentine’s Day traditions in the UK?

Roses are a traditional gift for Valentine's Day (PA Archive/PA Images)

Cards, flowers, chocolates, romantic mini-breaks, meals for two - you name it, anything even vaguely romantic will be looked upon fondly on February 14.

In fact, any romantic stereotype you can think of is popular on Valentine's Day - think teddy bears with saccharine love messages or anything heart-shaped.

The most romantic films of all time
When Harry Met Sally
Carol
Notting Hill
My Best Friend's Wedding
11 show all
When Harry Met Sally
1/11 When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally has been winning over new generations of fans ever since being released back in 1989, and its appeal is still irresistible nearly thirty years on. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal have unmistakable chemistry, and the film is rightly regarded as one of the greatest romcoms of all time. And whatever you do, have what she's having.

Allstar/Cinetext/COLUMBIA

Carol
2/11 Carol

Critically-lauded romantic drama Carol stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two women who conduct a forbidden love affair in 1950s New York. Beautifully and beguiling adapted from Patricia Highsmith romance novel, it was even once voted the best LGBTQ+ film of all time at the BFI Flare festival.

Notting Hill
3/11 Notting Hill

1999’s Notting Hill is one of the classic British romcoms: Richard Curtis’s screenplay is sparky and soppy in equal measure and Hugh Grant delivers one of his best performances. In it, he picks up where he left off in Four Weddings and a Funeral, all stutters and twiddling with his glasses. Julia Roberts is cast perfectly, while Emma Chambers charmed as Grant's giggling, manic sister.

My Best Friend's Wedding
4/11 My Best Friend's Wedding

Julia Roberts proved herself as queen of the 90s romcom with My Best Friend’s Wedding. The film, also starring Cameron Diazm and Michael O’Neal, may have a questionable premise – Roberts is trying to win over an old love, in front of his fiancee – but it is a pleasingly unvarnished look at how complicated love can be. The real star, though, is Rupert Everett; his turn is worth a watch alone.

Romeo & Juliet
5/11 Romeo & Juliet

Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes play the titular star-crossed lovers in Baz Luhrmann’s stunning Shakespear adaptation. It’s an unforgettable tale, and even if the ending isn’t exactly cheery, it’s story of young love is as powerful and enduring as ever.

13 Going On 30
6/11 13 Going On 30

Jennifer Garner delivers a bright performance alongside a pre-Hulk Mark Ruffalo in this 2004 favourite. It's a classic body-swap comedy setup, with the pair playing childhood sweethearts who reconnect after Garner’s character is transported into the body of a 30-year-old woman. It’s fun, sweet and a little silly – just the thing if you're getting tipsy on the fizz.

Titanic
7/11 Titanic

If in doubt, stick with DiCaprio. Even for those who've seen Titanic over and over, the touching romance between Kate Winslet's Rose and DiCaprio's Jack is always worth revisiting – their scene together dancing to the Irish jigs fizzles as they dance grasping hands, eyes locked, lost in each other. The raft is a problem, though.

Me Before You
8/11 Me Before You

Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin star together in this touching film, which explores the central relationship between a carer and a man left paralysed by a motorcycle accident. It’s a moving watch, in which the pair learn to enjoy life and find love in difficult circumstances.

Brooklyn
9/11 Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan plays a young Irish woman who finds love after moving to New York in this romantic drama from 2015. After her strict mother puts pressure on her to return to Ireland and settle down, she must make a choice between what is expected of her and what her heart longs for.

Dirty Dancing
10/11 Dirty Dancing

The late, great Patrick Swayze stars as charismatic dance instructor Johnny Castle in the unforgettable Dirty Dancing. Jennifer Grey also delivers a top performance as 17-year-old dancer Baby, who falls head over heels against all the odds in this 1987 classic. Tipsily trying the famous lift is probably best avoided. ​

The Notebook
11/11 The Notebook

Get the tissues out for this one. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’ The Notebook is a weepy but uplifting romcom, which has been one of the go-to romantic films for couples everywhere since its release in 2004. The film is hardly subtle when it tugs at viewers heartstrings, but it remains one of the most epic cinematic love stories of recent times.

When Harry Met Sally
1/11 When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally has been winning over new generations of fans ever since being released back in 1989, and its appeal is still irresistible nearly thirty years on. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal have unmistakable chemistry, and the film is rightly regarded as one of the greatest romcoms of all time. And whatever you do, have what she's having.

Allstar/Cinetext/COLUMBIA

Carol
2/11 Carol

Critically-lauded romantic drama Carol stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two women who conduct a forbidden love affair in 1950s New York. Beautifully and beguiling adapted from Patricia Highsmith romance novel, it was even once voted the best LGBTQ+ film of all time at the BFI Flare festival.

Notting Hill
3/11 Notting Hill

1999’s Notting Hill is one of the classic British romcoms: Richard Curtis’s screenplay is sparky and soppy in equal measure and Hugh Grant delivers one of his best performances. In it, he picks up where he left off in Four Weddings and a Funeral, all stutters and twiddling with his glasses. Julia Roberts is cast perfectly, while Emma Chambers charmed as Grant's giggling, manic sister.

My Best Friend's Wedding
4/11 My Best Friend's Wedding

Julia Roberts proved herself as queen of the 90s romcom with My Best Friend’s Wedding. The film, also starring Cameron Diazm and Michael O’Neal, may have a questionable premise – Roberts is trying to win over an old love, in front of his fiancee – but it is a pleasingly unvarnished look at how complicated love can be. The real star, though, is Rupert Everett; his turn is worth a watch alone.

Romeo & Juliet
5/11 Romeo & Juliet

Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes play the titular star-crossed lovers in Baz Luhrmann’s stunning Shakespear adaptation. It’s an unforgettable tale, and even if the ending isn’t exactly cheery, it’s story of young love is as powerful and enduring as ever.

13 Going On 30
6/11 13 Going On 30

Jennifer Garner delivers a bright performance alongside a pre-Hulk Mark Ruffalo in this 2004 favourite. It's a classic body-swap comedy setup, with the pair playing childhood sweethearts who reconnect after Garner’s character is transported into the body of a 30-year-old woman. It’s fun, sweet and a little silly – just the thing if you're getting tipsy on the fizz.

Titanic
7/11 Titanic

If in doubt, stick with DiCaprio. Even for those who've seen Titanic over and over, the touching romance between Kate Winslet's Rose and DiCaprio's Jack is always worth revisiting – their scene together dancing to the Irish jigs fizzles as they dance grasping hands, eyes locked, lost in each other. The raft is a problem, though.

Me Before You
8/11 Me Before You

Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin star together in this touching film, which explores the central relationship between a carer and a man left paralysed by a motorcycle accident. It’s a moving watch, in which the pair learn to enjoy life and find love in difficult circumstances.

Brooklyn
9/11 Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan plays a young Irish woman who finds love after moving to New York in this romantic drama from 2015. After her strict mother puts pressure on her to return to Ireland and settle down, she must make a choice between what is expected of her and what her heart longs for.

Dirty Dancing
10/11 Dirty Dancing

The late, great Patrick Swayze stars as charismatic dance instructor Johnny Castle in the unforgettable Dirty Dancing. Jennifer Grey also delivers a top performance as 17-year-old dancer Baby, who falls head over heels against all the odds in this 1987 classic. Tipsily trying the famous lift is probably best avoided. ​

The Notebook
11/11 The Notebook

Get the tissues out for this one. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’ The Notebook is a weepy but uplifting romcom, which has been one of the go-to romantic films for couples everywhere since its release in 2004. The film is hardly subtle when it tugs at viewers heartstrings, but it remains one of the most epic cinematic love stories of recent times.

Valentine's Day cards have traditionally always been sent anonymously while trips to Paris to celebrate in the city of love are always popular.

Meanwhile, many couples opt to eschew their mediocre midweek dinner and eat out on Valentine's Day, while gifts for a partner range from perfume to shoes and lingerie.

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