In honour of Valentine’s Day, lovers and friends exchange cards, chocolates, jewellery, and other gifts. Although Valentine’s Day has become known for its sweet Hallmark cards and romantic dinner ideas for two, its history is actually quite dark.
Interested in learning more about the origins and traditions of Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to check out these fascinating Valentine’s Day facts, which provide a deeper understanding of this age-old holiday. Discover the origins of conversation hearts, unique traditions from around the globe and the first card sent on Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re spending Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart or friends (or simply eating tons of Valentine’s Day chocolates), read on for some interesting facts.
1. There was more than one St. Valentine.
It may seem obvious that Valentine’s Day was named after its patron saint, St. Valentine, but there is actually some confusion over which St. Valentine it truly honours. According to History.com, there are at least two men named Valentine who may have been responsible for the creation of the holiday, including a priest named Valentine who lived in third century Rome. The according to legend, this Valentine violated the Emperor Claudius II’s ban on marriages (because he believed that it distracted young soldiers), illegally marrying couples in the spirit of love up to the time he was caught and executed.
According to a second legend, Valentine was killed in Rome for trying to help Christians escape jail, and he actually sent the first “valentine” from prison while imprisoned by writing a letter signed “From your Valentine.”
2. The origins of Valentine’s Day can be traced back to an ancient Pagan festival.
It is widely believed that Valentine’s Day commemorates St. Valentine’s death was on February 14, but other historians believe it actually derives from a Pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, which was celebrated on February 15 in ancient Rome. The day was celebrated by sacrificing animals and smacking women with animal hides, a practice believed to promote fertility, in honour of Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.
3. The holiday became associated with love in the 1300s.
During the 5th century, Pope Gelasius officially declared February 14 to be “Saint Valentine’s Day.” But it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the holiday became associated with love and romance, a tradition that originated in France and England as a common belief that birds began mating on February 14.
4. The myth of Cupid is rooted in Greek mythology.
In Valentine’s Day cards, he appears as a charming cherub holding a bow and arrow, but how did Cupid become such a popular symbol? In fact, the figure dates all the way back to 700 B.C., when it was associated with a handsome, immortal Greek deity named Eros. This god had the ability to influence people to fall in love with his intimidating nature. In the 4th century BCE, the Romans reimagined Eros as a cute little boy with a bow and arrow, naming him Cupid. Due to his power to match lovers, Cupid was associated with Valentine’s Day.
5. Valentines were first sent in the 15th century.
A French mediaeval duke named Charles wrote a poem to his wife in 1415 that is considered the earliest record of a valentine being sent, according to History.com. During his 21st year of imprisonment in the Tower of London, Charles wrote this sweet letter to his lover. What is the line in the poem that you are referring to? “My very gentle Valentine, I am already exhausted by love.” Swoon!
6. Valentines were first mass-produced in the 1840s.
In the 17th century, people began exchanging cards and letters with their lovers and friends. However, it was not until the 1840s that the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were sold in the United States by Esther A. Howland. A pioneer in commercialising Valentine’s Day cards in America, Howland is characterised by her elaborate, lace-and-ribbon-adorned cards.
7. Since the 17th century, Valentine’s Day flowers have been a tradition.
While it is an obvious romantic gesture today to give red roses, giving flowers did not become popular until the late 17th century. Historically, this practice was introduced to Europe by King Charles II of Sweden during a trip to Persia, when he learned the “language of flowers” which pairs flowers with specific meanings. During the Victorian Era, giving flowers became popular, especially on Valentine’s Day when red roses symbolises deep love.
8. The American people spend a lot of money on love today.
It is estimated that Americans spent over $20 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2019 and were expected to spend over $27.4 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2020, including $2.4 billion on candy alone! Approximately $196 is expected to be spent on Valentine’s Day, with men spending $291 and women spending $106.
9. Each year, Americans send 145 million Valentine’s Day cards.
Hallmark estimates that 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged every year on February 14 (and this does not include all the valentines exchanged in classrooms). Valentine’s Day ranks second to Christmas in terms of the amount of greeting cards exchanged. Teacher’s Day cards receive the greatest number of cards each year, followed by those received by children, mothers, and wives. In retrospect, we have come a long way from the days of Hallmark Cards’ first Valentine’s Day card in 1913.
10. Their pets are also the recipients of millions of dollars in gifts.
Pets need love, too! Around 27.6 million American households gave Valentine’s Day gifts to their pet dogs in 2020, while over 17.1 million bought gifts for their cats. The total amount spent on gifts for pets on Valentine’s Day was estimated at $751.3 million by American households.
11. Jewellery is the most commonly purchased Valentine’s Day gift.
It may be common to give candy and flowers on Valentine’s Day, but according to the National Retail Federation, the most popular category for Valentine’s Day gifts is jewellery, accounting for $5.8 billion in 2020. An evening out was the second most-purchased gift on Valentine’s Day 2020, followed by clothing, candy, and flowers.
12. During the 1861 era, the first box of chocolates in the shape of a heart was introduced.
A fancy box packaging was created by Richard Cadbury, the son of Cadbury founder John Cadbury, in order to increase sales of chocolates. For Valentine’s Day in 1861, he developed the first heart-shaped chocolate box, and today, more than 36 million heart-shaped chocolate boxes are sold annually. It is equivalent to 58 million pounds of chocolate.
13. It is believed that conversation hearts originated as medical lozenges.
In an interesting twist of fate, the story of conversation hearts began when a Boston pharmacist named. Oliver Chase invented a machine that simplified the manufacturing of medical lozenges for sore throats and other illnesses. As a result, the pharmacist soon began making candy instead of lozenges, which resulted in America’s first candy-making machine. We know today as Necco wafers what was once candy lozenges but soon became the New England Confectionery Company, or Necco.
14. In contrast, it was not until 1866 that we became familiar with conversation hearts printed with sweet messages.
In the beginning, Oliver Chase’s brother, Daniel Chase, created sentimental messages on Necco sweethearts, which were much larger than the ones we have today, and had longer print phrases and sayings. What were some of the first messages? The words “Married in white, you have chosen well” and “How long shall I have to wait?” are very appropriate.
15. A total of more than 8 billion conversation hearts are manufactured annually.
Necco must start making these just days after February 14 in order to have enough in time for the next Valentine’s Day. Every day, almost 100,000 pounds are consumed! We have approximately 45 sayings in each box, including “True Love,” “Hug Me,” and “You Rock,” but you can also personalise them. Do not worry if you still have last year’s box; they have a five-year shelf life.
16. Valentine’s Day is the day when nearly 6 million couples get engaged.
I mean, what better day could there be to propose marriage than a day dedicated to love and romance? Around 6 million couples get engaged on Valentine’s Day, which is one of the most popular occasions to pop the question. The results of this survey showed that Valentine’s Day was voted the best day to propose compared to any other day. And 40% of the respondents were men!
17. Around the world, it is celebrated differently.
It is known in many Latin American countries as the day of lovers (day of lovers) or the day of love and friendship (day of love and friendship). Although couples exchange flowers and chocolate on this day, the celebration also focuses on thanking friends.
It is customary for women in Japan to give chocolate to the men in their lives, according to Fortune. With the quality of the chocolate representing their true feelings. A month later, the men repaid the favour by celebrating “White Day,” which is becoming increasingly popular.
- “XOXO” doesn’t always refer to hugs and kisses.
“XOXO” is a popular signature during this time of year. The origins of the signature, however, date back to the Middle Ages. A Washington Post article stated that the “X” symbolised the Christian cross during those times. And letters ended with a sign of the cross and a kiss to represent an oath. Through the use of this gesture in literature, letters, and paperwork, it came to mean that something has been “sealed with a kiss.”
19. Valentine’s Day can be a memorable experience for children.
It has traditionally been associated with romantic love and partnerships on Valentine’s Day. One interesting finding was that only 59% of spouses planned to give their partners a gift, whereas 85% of parents planned to give their children something on Valentine’s Day.
20. There are actually birds called lovebirds.
Despite its popularity as a figure of speech, the term “lovebirds” is also the common name of the Agapornis bird. An African parrot of this type can be found throughout the eastern and southern regions of the continent. Most lovebirds travel in pairs, which is why they are often called lovebirds.
21. For singles, there is an official alternative to Valentine’s Day.
Observed every year on the same date, International Quirkyalone Day serves as a day off for single individuals. Rather than being an anti-Valentine’s Day event, the holiday celebrates self-love and platonic relationships. Since 2003, International Quirkyalone Day has been observed worldwide.
22. It was William Shakespeare who inspired a tradition.
For many people, writing “letters to Juliet” has become a tradition for Valentine’s Day. In fact, the 2010 film Letters to Juliet was based on the tradition of writing letters to Juliet. It is common for thousands of letters to be sent to Verona. Italy around Valentine’s Day, addressed to Juliet Capulet, the character in Romeo and Juliet. There is a great deal of emotion, passion, and in many cases heartbreak in these love letters. There are volunteers who read through the letters, respond to them. And choose a winner for the “Cara Giulietta” (Dear Juliet) prize. The winner will have the opportunity to visit Juliet’s home in Verona and attend a special ceremony.