Holidays are funny things: they shape so much of our lives, from the days we get off work and the decorations we have displayed around our homes, to (most significantly) the color of M&Ms we are currently munching. But despite their significance, we often know very little about the days we are celebrating. And so, for your enrichment (and entertainment), here are some fun pieces of trivia about Valentine’s Day.
How It All Began
- There are many theories about the origins of Valentine’s Day, but the most popular dates back to the third century: Roman Emperor Claudius II tried to bolster his army by prohibiting young soldiers from marrying, but St. Valentine defied the emperor and continued to conduct secret marriages. This act of rebellion led to Valentine’s imprisonment, and ultimately his execution on February 14, about 270 AD. While he was in prison, Valentine supposedly fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, and the night before he was beheaded, wrote her a love letter signed “From Your Valentine.”
- Prior to the spread of Christianity, ancient Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia on February 15. This feast honored Juno, the goddess of women and marriage. Around 498 AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentines Day in part to put an end to this pagan celebration.
More Valentine’s Day History
- Valentine’s Day first became associated with romantic love in the Middle Ages, when the custom of choosing a sweetheart on this date spread throughout Europe. During this time, it was widely believed that birds selected their mate on February 14.
- The phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve” stems from a Middle Ages tradition in which young men and women drew names from a bowl to determine their Valentine. They would wear the name pinned to their sleeves for one week for everyone to see.
- The first handmade Valentines appeared in the 16th century. As early as the 1800s, companies began mass-producing cards that were hand-colored by factory workers.
- Cupid – the most common symbol of Valentine’s Day – traces its origins to Roman mythology, where Cupid was described as the son of Venus, goddess of Love.
- According to legend, the red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. The tradition of giving a red rose on Valentine’s Day became popular in the 1700s when Charles II of Sweden introduced the Persian custom of the “language of flowers” to Europe.
Valentine’s Day Today
- Valentine’s Day is the second most popular greeting card-giving occasion: according to the U.S. Greeting Card Association (yes, there really is such a thing), 145 million cards are purchased each year, excluding classroom Valentines. Eighty-five percent of these Valentines are purchased by women.
- Worldwide, approximately 110 million roses and 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold this Valentine’s Day.
- There is an average of 220,000 marriage proposals on Valentine’s Day each year.
- At least ten new conversation heart sayings are introduced each year. Some of this year’s new sayings are “#LOVE”, “TXT ME”, and “Occupy My <3”.
I know that Valentine’s Day has its opponents, but I am a romantic at heart and have always had a soft spot for this special holiday. What about you: are you pro- or anti-Valentine’s Day? How will you be celebrating the holiday this year?