Valentine's Day is a tradition practiced in the United States from the time we're young children. Still, many are unaware of how the holiday came to be. Americans spend billions of dollars on chocolates, cards, flowers, and more each Valentine's Day, but those gifts only became associated with the holiday in the 1800s. That isn't very long ago considering that the first Valentine's Day was back in the middle ages. Furthermore, many countries don't practice the holiday at all, or at least not the way Americans do. Keep reading for more surprising Valentine's Day facts.
It Was Named After A Saint
According to BBC, Valentine's Day was named after Saint Valentine. There are multiple stories about who this person was, but one tale seems to have risen above the rest. The widespread belief is that he was a priest from Rome who defied the emperor.
Emperor Claudius II is said to have banned marriage during wartime as a means of producing better, unmarried soldiers. Valentine married couples anyways and was thus thrown into jail. Before his February 14th execution, he wrote a love letter to the jailor's daughter signed, "from your Valentine."
The First Valentine's Day Was In 496 AD
According to History, Pope Gelasius I decided in the late 5th century that he would get rid of the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Instead, it would be a day to honor the late Saint Valentine. Some of the traditions from Lupercalia are thought to have carried over to Valentine's Day.
For instance, the festival would take place in the middle of February. Also, red and white were symbolic colors for Lupercalia participants, and mixed together they make pink.
Valentine's Day Cards Erupted After The Uniform Penny Post
The Uniform Penny Post was a system introduced to Great Britain in 1840 and enabled Valentine's Day cards to be mailed out for just a penny. Before then, it would cost an entire day's worth of working-class wages to send a card.
The new price created a massive demand for Valentine's Day cards. In 1841 alone, 400,000 Valentine's Day cards were mailed around England. Thirty years later, the General Post Office in London processed more than a million cards.
People Put Care Into Their Victorian Valentine's Day Cards
Back in the Victorian era, handmade cards were often more pristine than store-bought ones. Lovers would often use lace, ribbons, seashells, silk flowers, and printed phrases like "To my love" as embellishments to enhance their Valentine's Day cards.
This image shows a Valentine's Day card from the 1860s. Tiny paper cutouts of birds, red bows, lace, and colored prints adorn this carefully crafted card. 5 Minute History notes that images of churches on cards symbolized honorable intentions.
Esther Howland is the "Mother of the American Valentine"
Around the middle of the 19th century, Esther Howland noticed that European Valentine's Day cards were not affordable for many Americans. To solve this issue, she imported materials from England to make and sell her own cards.
Esther put her talent as an artist and businesswoman to work, and by 1862 more than 20,000 valentines were flying out of New York post offices. For Esther's contribution, she is often referred to as the "Mother of the American Valentine."
The Civil War Boosted Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day was gaining momentum in America by the middle of the 19th century, but it wasn't until the end of the Civil War that the numbers began to skyrocket. 5 Minute History reports that the number of valentines sent by New Yorkers increased by about 50,000 in 1865.
It increased an additional 20,000 the following year. Sweet valentines weren't the only things being sent. Around the same time something called "vinegar valentines" emerged. These satirical cards were often sent anonymously and criticized the receiver, offering a voice to those angered by the war.
Americans Spent Millions On Their Pets For Valentine's Day
A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation found that Americans spent almost $600 million on their pets for Valentine's Day in 2017. CNBC reported that since 2012, about 20% of Americans typically get their pet a gift for the holiday.
The average each person spends on their Valentine's Day gift to their pet is usually just over $5. While that doesn't sound like much, the numbers certainly add up and give marketers a reason to target pets as valentines.
People Send Letters To Shakespeare's Juliet On Valentine's Day
Romeo and Juliet is regarded by many as one of the most romantic stories of all time. Since the story takes place in Verona, Italy, romantics from all over the world send cards to Juliet as a part of the "Verona in Love" annual event.
The tradition involves a week of special events throughout the streets and palaces of Verona. Volunteers respond to all of the letters sent, and a winner is given the "Cara Giulietta" prize for the most beautiful letter.
Richard Cadbury Created The Chocolate Box Trend
According to CNN, chocolate makes up 75% of the candy bought for Valentine's Day. The association between chocolate and the holiday of love is thanks to chocolate maker Richard Cadbury. Upon inheriting their father's chocolate company, Richard found an improved way to extract cocoa butter, resulting in an excess amount that could be used for more varieties of chocolate.
In a streak of marketing genius, Richard produced heart-shaped boxes and decorated them for Valentine's Day. The boxes were a hit, especially since they could be kept as mementos and repurposed.
Valentine's Day In Finland Is Called Friend's Day
While Europe and America have embraced Valentine's day as a holiday for lovers, Finland took a different approach to the tradition. Finns called the day Ystävänpäivä, which translates to "Friend Day."
Finnish YouTuber finntasticbeast claims that Valentine's Day is better in Finland since it, "doesn't discriminate against anyone based on their relationship status." Instead of asking a special someone to be your valentine, friends will swap cards and treats amongst one another to show their appreciation and love.
Americans Don't Spend Much On Their Friends
While the Finnish may be showering their friends with gifts for Valentine's Day, Americans do things quite differently. The National Retail Federation estimated that Americans would spend 7 times as much money on their significant other as they do their friends.
Where Americans are expected to spend $14 billion on their significant other, that number drops to about $2 billion for their friends, nearly the same amount spent on their children's classmates. Just below the $2 billion mark are co-workers and pets.
"XOXO" Is A Relatively New Symbol
The Washington Post reports that in the Middle Ages, letters were sealed with an "X." Kissing the seal before sending off the letter could explain how the term "seal it with a kiss" created a connection between a kiss and an "X," though there are many theories.
When it comes to "O," some speculate that it was first put with "X" in the game tic-tac-toe as a perfect contrast. Duke researcher Stephen Goranson found that it wasn't until 1960 that the "X" and "O" were used together, at which point it was inferred to mean hugs and kisses.
Wearing Your Heart On Your Sleeve And Valentine's Day May Have The Same Origin
The Smithsonian came up with a few possible origins of the term "wearing your heart on your sleeve." The first goes back to Emperor Claudius II and his marriage ban. To appease the soldiers, they were allowed to temporarily couple during a Roman festival.
A man would wear the name of the woman he wanted to couple with on his sleeve. Around the same time, knights would dedicate their jousting matches to a woman by wearing something of hers around his arm.
Men And Women Do Valentine's Day Differently
A 2018 survey conducted by Statista asked almost 900 participants what they planned on giving for Valentine's Day. More than twice as many women as men said they would be giving a self-made gift.
At the same time, more than twice as many men as women said they would be giving flowers. Only 23% of men said they would be giving jewelry, compared to 13% of women. Other popular areas such as sweets, perfume, and gift cards were almost tied.
Americans Spend Billions On Valentine's Day
The National Retail Federation projected a total of $18.2 billion in Valentine's Day-related sales for 2018. That comes out to about $140 per person or almost $300 per couple.
All of that money is spread over only half of America since about 54% of the country was expected to participate in the holiday. Consumers were also expected to spend almost the same amount on flowers as they do candy, and double that on jewelry.
Americans Spend A Billion Dollars On Valentine's Day Cards
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend $1 billion on greeting cards, totaling up to almost 200 million greeting cards that will be exchanged. That means that more than half of America can expect to receive a greeting card.
And that's just purchased cards. When it comes to homemade cards, the numbers are likely to soar, especially since women were more likely to make their gifts than men were in the 2018 Statista survey we referenced earlier.
Red Roses Were Associated With Aphrodite
Have you ever wondered why, of all the flowers, red roses are the ones that are associated with romance? One likely reason is ancient mythology. Paintings often portrayed Aphrodite, the goddess of love, as being surrounded by roses.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the one who turned roses red. There are multiple myths that explain how she created the flower. One myth claims that she cut her hand while running to deliver a message, and the blood-stained the petals of a white rose.
Conversation Hearts Date Back To The 1800s
Smithsonian Magazine reports that the conversation hearts we love today have been around since the early 1900s. It evolved from a candy produced in 1847 that was shaped like a shell and had messages inside, similar to a fortune-cookie.
A little more than a decade later, a candy-maker produced a machine to print the messages directly onto the candy. The lengthy messages of love were shortened to small phrases like "Love U" to accommodate the small space of a little, candy heart.
The Largest Box Of Chocolates Was Almost 4,000 Pounds!
The Guinness Book of World Records lists this Thorntons Moments box as the largest box of chocolates in the world. The box was created in 2008 in Edinburg, United Kingdom. It weighed in at almost 4,000 pounds!
The carton is 16 and a half feet tall and just over 11 feet wide. In 2016, Tokyo, Japan produced the world's largest box of chocolate bars, which weighed in 4,506 pounds! Talk about an over-the-top Valentine's Day gift!
A Couple Broke The Record For Longest Kiss On Valentine's Day
The world's longest kiss was achieved on Valentine's day in 2013 by Ekkachai and Laksana Tiranarat, a couple in Thailand. The kiss began on February 12th and lasted 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds!
They achieved this incredible record during an annual kiss competition, beating out nine other couples (along with every recorded kiss in the world). The couple were previous champions of the competition, but it was this year that they stole the world record. They also scored a cash prize and two diamond rings.