Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the 14th of February every year. On this day couples across the globe honor their spouses, partners and sweethearts. This day is dedicated to love and has a long a rich history filled with traditions and customs that have morphed it into the day that single folks sometimes refer to as “Single Reminder Day”.
You might not know everything about this holiday (which is celebrated in a ton of countries around the world every year), but today i’m changing that.
Here are 20 Facts You Might Not Have Known About Valentine’s Day
1. Valentine’s Day gets its name from the patron saint of lovers.
2. There was actually more than one Saint Valentine. The Catholic Church actually recognizes at least 3 different saints named Valentine or Valentinus. All of them were martyred. It’s unclear from which actual one this holiday gets its name.
3. One Saint Valentine was a priest in third century Rome. This Valentine defied Emperor Claudius II’s ban on marriage and illegally married couples in the spirit of love (in secret) until he was caught and sentenced to death.
4. The Other Saint Valentine legend suggests that Valentine was killed for attempting to help Christians escape prison in Rome. It’s said that he actually sent the first “valentine” message himself while imprisoned. He wrote a letter signed “From your Valentine.”
5. Valentine’s Day has it roots in an ancient Pagan Festival. The festival was called “Lupercalia” and celebrated on the 15th of February in Ancient Rome. The day was celebrated by sacrificing animals and smacking women with animal hides, a practice that was believed to encourage fertility. The festival was dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture (Faunus) and Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome).
6. The holiday didn’t become associated with love and romance until the 1300s. At that time there was a common belief in France and England that birds started their mating season on the 14th of February.
7. Cupid (the cherub that’s seen on many Valentine’s Day cards) actually has roots in Greek Mythology. He can be traced back all the way to 700 BC (to the Greek god of loved name “Eros”). Eros was actually a handsome, immortal man with the intimidating power to make people fall in love. The Romans only adapted Eros in the 4th Century (changing his image into a boy with a bow and arrow and renaming him “Cupid”).
8. The oldest record of a valentine dates back to 1415. It’s a poem that a 21 year old French medieval duke wrote to his lover (while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London).
9. People were already exchanging cards and letters on Valentine’s Day in the 17th Century. Mass-production of Valentine’s Day cards started in 1840 in the USA. The cards were sold by Esther A. Howland (The mother of the American Valentine).
10. Giving flowers only became a custom in the 17th Century. It dates back to when King Charles II of Sweden learned the “language of flowers” (which pairs different flowers with specific meanings) on a trip to Persia. He subsequently introduced the tradition to Europe. According to this tradition, Red Roses symbolize deep love.
11. Americans spent more than $20 billion on Valentine’s Day Gifts in 2019 (according to the National Retail Foundation).
12. Americans send 145 million Valentine’s Day cards every year on the 14th of February. This is according to Hallmark (who produced their first Valentine’s Day card in 1913). It’s the second biggest card holiday (after Christmas).
13. The heart-shaped box of chocolates was first introduced in 1861. It was created by Richard Cadbury (son of Cadbury founder John Cadbury) who started packaging chocolates in fancy boxes to increase sales.
14. Conversation hearts started out as medical lozenges. A Boston pharmacist named Oliver Chase invented a machine that simplified the way medical lozenges (which was used for sore throats and other illnesses) could be made. The result was America’s first candy-making machine. The pharmacist soon started shifting his focus from making lozenges to candy instead. Printed messages on hearts were introduced in 1866.
15. Many Latin American countries know the holiday as el día de los enamorados (day of lovers) or día del amor y la amistad (day of love and friendship). Couples exchange flowers and chocolate on this day, but the holiday’s focus is also directed at showing gratitude to friends.
16. In Japan, it’s customary for women to give confections to the men in their lives. The quality of the chocolate indicates their true feelings. On the 14th of March (exactly a month later) the men repay the favor by celebrating the increasingly popular “White Day.”
17. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, rural English women used to pin bay leaves sprinkled with rosewater on their pillow to see their future husbands in their dreams.
18. Young South Africans often find out who their secret admirers are on the 14th of February. It’s common for young girls in South Africa to pin the name of their sweetheart on their sleeve on this day of love.
19. According to a 2019 poll, 74% of South Africans celebrate Valentine’s Day. An average South African will spend R744 on a Valentine’s Day gift. 4% of South Africans leave shopping to the last moment (on the 13th or 14th of February).
20. Valentine’s day in Italy was previously celebrated as their spring festival. Today, they celebrate by exchanging gifts and going on a romantic date with lovers.
Well, there you have it, 20 facts you might not have known about Valentine’s Day. If there’s something interesting that I’ve left out, feel free to comment below.
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