25 Valentines Day Trivia Facts
Valentine's Day can be one of the most romantic - or triggering - days of the year for many people. For some, it's a day of celebrating romance and being thankful for their significant other. For others, Valentine's Day can feel like a painful reminder of their single status. But no matter if you celebrate with your special someone, special pet, or special self, it's a great excuse to splurge on fancy candy!
These days, February 14th is a commercial holiday filled with cards, gifts, flowers and candies. But did you know that it originated as an ancient Roman holiday feast? Grab your candy hearts and read on to find out more fun facts about this fascinating and divisive holiday.
- Who Was Saint Valentine? - It turns out, the namesake for this holiday is a bit of a mystery. Most agree that the holiday is named in honor of at least two different saints, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. Both were martyred for their Christian beliefs and added to the calendar of saints, but there is some debate about exactly who they were.
- Greeting Cards - Sending Valentine's Day cards became popular in England in the Victorian era, and then gained even more popularity in 1840 when the price of postage decreased. Suddenly, romancers were able to afford to send anonymous valentines. In an otherwise very conservative society, this led to an uptick in racy messages.
- Chaucer's Influence - The first association between Saint Valentine's Day and romance comes from Geoffrey Chaucer's poem from 1382 entitled Parliament of Fowls. The poem is a vision of a dream in which birds celebrate Valentine's Day by choosing their mate. Who knew The Canterbury Tales author was such a romantic?
- Teacher's Pet - In the United States, school-age children often exchange Valentine's Day cards with their entire class. As a result, the U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that around one billion Valentine's Day cards are exchanged every year. Deservedly, teachers receive the highest percentage of cards, even over significant others.
- Finland Friends - In Finland, Valentine's Day is called "Friend's Day" and is more about a celebration of special friends in your life than it is about romantic love interests.
- Galentine's Day - Maybe taking a cue from Finland, beloved TV character Leslie Knope from the show Parks and Rec created a holiday known as "Galentine's Day." Celebrated on February 13th, this holiday celebrates friendship, especially over brunch. As a result of the popularity of the show, greeting card manufacturers now produce "Galentine's Day" cards, and places like salons, spas, and restaurants feature group specials.
- Worldwide Celebration - Many countries around the world celebrate Valentine's Day with their own traditions, but not all. Indonesia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have all banned Valentine's Day because it conflicts with religious beliefs.
- Engagements - Valentine's Day ranks as one of the most popular days of the year for engagements. Typically, Christmas Day takes the top pick, but in 2020, Valentine's Day surpassed it when nearly 6 million couples became fiancés.
- Sweet Tooth - Each year, in the week leading up to Valentine's Day, Americans purchase around 58 million pounds of chocolate. This includes around 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate.
- Speaking of Chocolate - You can thank the Cadbury candy company for their signature heart-shaped "Fancy Boxes" of chocolates that are oh-so-popular on Valentine's Day. These first came on the market in 1868 in England. Each year, the caramel chocolates rank as the most popular flavor.
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- Don't Forget the Candy Hearts - Necco, one of the oldest candy companies in the United States, created the original candy hearts in 1866. These candies, dubbed "Sweethearts" were made until 2018 when the company filed for bankruptcy. Luckily, another company, Spangler Candy Company, took over making them. Thank goodness, because Americans purchase around 5 billion individual candy hearts per year.
- Evolution of Candy Hearts - One of the reasons why the original Necco candy hearts have maintained their popularity is because the messages evolve over time. From "Call Me," to "Fax Me" and finally "Email Me," the hearts have kept up with modern technological flirting. However, some messages like "Saucy Boy" have been retired forever.
- What about Cupid? - The chubby winged baby that we all associate with Valentine's Day has his roots in Ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Known as Eros to the Greeks, and Cupid to the Romans, he's the god of love and eroticism. While he's depicted as a teen in earlier periods, artwork from the Hellenistic period cemented his image as a "putto." Putti are chubby, winged male babies who represent pure love.
- The Original Card Maker - In the late 1840's, Esther Howland used her father's print shop to begin mass-producing Valentine's Day cards in the U.S. She used lace paper, ribbons, and floral motifs to create multi-layer cards which often featured Cupid.
- Vinegar Valentines - Victorian England saw a huge popularity with romantic cards, but insulting cards were also common. These comic cards, or Vinegar Valentines, were typically sent anonymously and insulted the receiver for any number of "offenses." For example, "Your bright shining pate is seen at all shows, and invariably down in the bald-headed rows, where you make conspicuous with your tender care, your true ardent love for that one lonesome hair." Let's be glad these went out of style!
- Popular Gifts - Each year, people the world over exchange gifts with their loved ones on Valentine's Day. The most popular present is candy, followed by cards and then flowers. Jewelry is not given as often as a token of affection, and around one percent of Americans receive pets for Valentine's Day.
- Not So Romantic - While the rest of the world was celebrating love, on February 14th of 1929, seven members of Bugs Moran's gang were lined up against a wall and executed in his Chicago headquarters. The Valentine's Day Massacre was the result of a decades-long feud between archrivals Bugs Moran and Al Capone. Luckily, it marked the last major altercation between the feuding gangs as Al Capone was arrested shortly after and Bugs Moran lost too many of his men to continue his operations.
- Happier Historical Valentine's Days - The Valentine's Day Massacre wasn't the only important piece of history to occur on February 14th. Alexander Graham Bell applied for his telephone patent on Valentine's Day of 1876. And Sir Alexander Fleming first introduced the world to the wonders of penicillin on February 14, 1929.
- Good Luck - There are many traditions and superstitions associated with Valentine's Day. In the 1700's in England, women would pin five bay leaves to their pillow. They believed this would bring them sweet dreams of their future husbands.
- Flower Power - Flowers may not be the most popular Valentine's Day gift, however, they still accounted for nearly $2 billion worth of sales in 2021. In fact, almost thirty percent of all flower sales are generated around February 14th.
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- Roses are Red - It's the Romans we can thank for the rose being the most popular flower of Valentine's Day. Venus, the Roman goddess of love, is associated with roses and these buds are a symbol for romance dating back to ancient times. Red roses are the most popular flower color for February 14th, followed by white, and then pink.
- Lady in Red - It turns out there's a reason why dressing in red is so popular on Valentine's Day. Not only do we associate red with passion and desire, but studies show that men and women both found members of the opposite sex more attractive when sporting the color or standing in front of it.
- And Juliet is the Sun - Each year, Shakespeare's fictional character Juliet receives thousands of letters on Valentine's Day in the town of Verona, Italy. Volunteers respond to each letter and choose the most romantic one to be awarded the "Cara Giulietta" (Dear Juliet) prize.
- Don't Forget the Pets - Even your best furry friends deserve some special attention on Valentine's Day. In 2020, nearly 30% of all Americans who were celebrating the holiday said they planned to purchase a gift for their pet. This equated to around $886 million spent on animal valentines, and dog owners spent slightly more than cat parents.
- Not Interested - Despite the commercial success of Valentine's Day, almost 40% of Americans polled said they planned to skip the holiday celebration in 2021. Some blamed price hikes for their decision to skip the fanfare, while others simply dismissed the holiday as "cheesy."
Love it or hate it, there's no denying that Valentine's Day is a big deal around the world, especially for retailers. And whether you have a special somebody in your life or not, you can still treat yourself to some candy and flowers, celebrate with your friends, or lavish Valentines gifts on your pet.
Kelsey Caldwell is a realtor and freelance writer from Charlotte, NC. She and her husband are parents to two amazing kids, a puppy, and a rabbit.