It's not uncommon to consider Valentine’s Day to be nothing more than a day focused on love, chocolates, roses, and fancy (read: over-priced) dinners at upscale restaurants. And while that's certainly not far from the truth, there’s actually so much more to Valentine’s Day than what is observed today. And what better way to learn about this arguably commercialized day than to familiarize yourself with some common Valentine's Day trivia?
For example, do you know the most-purchased flower on Valentine’s Day? Or the most popular flavor in each box of assorted chocolate bon bons? There are plenty of fun Valentine’s Day facts that will totally surprise you. Kathleen Davis, deputy editor of Fast Company, has helped uncover these amazing Valentine’s Day facts, so while you’re shopping for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift that says “I love you,” have a read through these pieces of Valentine’s Day trivia to learn even more about this special holiday.
And, if you’re still stuck on deciding how to celebrate this love-centric holiday, consider making a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner to enjoy by candlelight, or perhaps watching a funny or overly-sweet Valentine’s Day movie with your loved one (or alone, because those movies hit regardless). And of course, don’t forget to write a Valentine’s Day card — aka the ultimate love letter — to tell your significant other how important they are to you. You can even include one of these unexpected and impressive Valentine’s Day fun facts in your card if your loved one is a fan of a good piece of Valentine’s Day trivia.
Whatever you decide to do this Valentine’s Day, just remember to focus on the real reason for the holiday: Chocolate. (Just kidding, it’s love!)
1. Valentine's Day started with the Romans.
There are two theories about the origin of Valentine's Day. According to History.com, the day derives from Lupercalia, a raucous Roman festival on February 15th where men stripped naked and spanked young maidens in the hopes of increasing their fertility.
The second theory is that while the Roman Emperor Claudius II was trying to bolster his army, he forbade young men to marry (because apparently single men make better soldiers). In the spirit of love, St. Valentine defied the ban and performed secret marriages, as History.com reports. For his disobedience, Valentine was executed on February 14th.
2. Passing out Valentines is a 600-year-old tradition.
Each year, kids in classrooms across America hand out Valentine's Day cards to their classmates. According to History.com, the oldest record of a Valentine was a poem Charles Duke of Orleans wrote to his wife when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. For lack of a better phrase. the rest is history.
3. Esther Howland is the first manufacturer of Valentines.
She became known as the "Mother of the American Valentine" for the artistry and sentiment of her designs, as Time Magazine reports. Before Howland commercialized them, American Valentines were less romantic and more comical. Her inspiration came from the thoughtful and sweet greeting cards that were circulating in England, and she decided to sell similar designs in the U.S. Needless to day, they took off. During the 1850s she earned $100,000 annually, which is about $3 million today, according to Time.
4. Today, millions of greeting cards are purchased every year.
We're talking 144 million greeting cards being exchanged industry-wide every year for Valentine's Day in the U.S. alone, according to Hallmark.
5. Wearing your heart on your sleeve is more than just a phrase.
In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names to see who their Valentine would be, the LA Times reports. According to Smithsonian, they would wear the name pinned to their sleeve for one week so that everyone would know their supposed true feelings.
6. People consider pink and red the colors of love.
According to the National Confectioners Association, around 65 percent of Americans believe that the packaging of Valentine's Day candies and chocolates should be red and pink.
7. Candy hearts were originally medical lozenges.
In 1847, Boston pharmacist Oliver Chase invented a machine that simplified the lozenge production process, resulting in the first candy-making machine, according to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. After identifying an opportunity to revolutionize the candy business, Chase shifted his focus to candy production with Necco wafers.
8. The candies got their iconic shape much later.
It wasn't until 15 years after the creation of Necco wafers that Daniel Chase's brother, Oliver Chase, developed a way to press words onto the candy lozenges with a felt roller pad and vegetable food coloring. According to HuffPost, the conversational candies officially became heart-shaped in 1902, and today Necco says about 100,000 of them are sold each year.
9. The heart shape wasn't always a romantic symbol.
According to Time, the heart was once widely believed to be humans' center of memory, where feelings of love were recorded. However, we have French and Italian artists from the 14th century to thank for the symbol that we know and love today, as they were the first ones to start using this motif in their work.
10. Cupid's bow and arrow weren't just for show.
In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, as Medium reports. According to CNN, he's often depicted with a bow and arrows to pierce hearts and cast a spell of love.
11. Roses are the flowers of love.
Speaking of cupid and his roses, can you guess the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess? The red rose, of course. The bud stands for strong romantic feelings, so it's no surprise that roses make up the most popular Valentine's Day bouquets.
12. Valentine's Day is a popular holiday to get engaged.
This seems fitting: A 2017 study by diamond retailer James Allen found that 43 percent of millennials chose Valentine's Day as their ideal day to propose or be proposed to.
13. Americans spend a lot on love.
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $20.7 billion for Valentine's Day in 2019 and were expected to spend $27.4 billion billion in 2020.
14. Men and women prefer candy to flowers.
Both men and women prefer to receive chocolate over flowers, according to the National Confectioners Association. The survey also found that chocolate sales represent 75 percent or more of Valentine's Day candy purchases.
15. The chocolate box has been around for more than 140 years.
In addition to creating arguably the richest, creamiest, and sweetest chocolate on the market, Richard Cadbury also introduced the first box of Valentine's Day chocolates in 1868, as History.com reports.
16. And there's a standout favorite in every box.
According to the National Confectioners Association, caramels are the most popular flavor in chocolate boxes, followed by chocolate-covered nuts, chocolate-filled, cream-filled, and coconut.
17. Experiential gifts are on the rise.
In 2017, 40 percent of consumers told the National Retail Federation they wanted an "experience gift"— aka tickets to a concert or other event, an outdoor activity, or an evening out — although only 24 percent planned to give one. This gift option is particularly popular with millennials: 45 percent of people ages 18-24 and 40 percent of people ages 25-34 said they planned to give experiences for Valentine's Day. (Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is sured to put a damper on these experiential gifts, and for good reason.)
18. More Americans skip Valentine's Day than you realize.
Whether it's because they're single or think the holiday is beyond cheesy, about 3 in 10 adults reported in a survey by the National Retail Federation that they're not celebrating the day of love, though they may treat themselves to a small gift or a night out with friends and family. Oh well, more chocolate and roses for us!
19. It's not just for humans.
People really do love their pets, because according to the National Retail Federation, 27 percent of people celebrating Valentine's Day in 2020 say they are also buying gifts for their pets. Spending on Valentine's Day gifts for pets has also grown significantly, going from $450 million in 2010 to more than $1.7 billion.
20. Galentine's Day has become a beloved spinoff holiday.
Galentine's Day may have originally been a holiday made up by geniuses behind the hit TV show Parks and Recreation back in 2010, but that doesn't mean it's not 100 percent real. According to the National Retail Federation, since 2010, spending on Valentine’s Day gifts for friends has nearly tripled, going from $737 million to a whopping $2.1 billion.
21. Roses really are king of Valentine's Day florals.
Roses are iconically linked to Valentine's Day, and it's not just a stereotype. According to The Spruce, roses account for more than half of all Valentine's Day flower sales.
22. Valentine's Day is the biggest holiday for florists.
According to the Society of American Florists, Valentine's Day accounts for 30 percent of all holiday flower purchases, beating out Christmas, Mother's Day, and Thanksgiving.
23. Women are more likely to treat themselves than men on Valentine's Day.
Sixteen percent of flowers purchased by women on Valentine's Day are going to none other than themselves, according to the Society of American Florists. So if you want flowers on the holiday but don't have a special someone who will show up at your doorstep with a bouquet, know that you're absolutely not alone when you treat yourself to a floral arrangement.
24. Teachers are the number one recipient of Valentines.
And honestly, who else is more deserving? Oftentimes classrooms in elementary schools do fun Valentine exchanges to celebrate the holiday, which means that teachers often receive a sweet note from each of their students, making them the group of people who receive the most Valentines, according to Good Housekeeping.
25. Jewelry is also a pretty popular (and pricey) Valentine's Day gift.
In a report from the National Retail Federation, Americans were expected to spend a whopping $19.6 billion (yes, billion with a B) on jewelry for their special someone for Valentine's Day. How many roses do you think you could buy with that...?
26. Some people who aren't celebrating are still celebrating.
Over a quarter of people who say they aren't celebrating Valentine's Day still plan to do something special, whether that's treating themselves, family, or a friend to a little token of appreciation, according to the National Retail Federation.
27. Your chocolates probably come from the west coast.
California is the state with the largest number of chocolate makers, which means those heart-shaped goody boxes you're gifting your loved one this Valentine's Day probably came from the west coast. The state has 137 chocolate makers, according to the U.S. census. Pennsylvania comes in second, with 119 chocolate artisans.
28. There is a city in Texas with a perfect name for the holiday.
If you're looking for the place in the United States with the most holiday spirit, don't expect to find it in any big city. In fact, the most love-struck town of all is none other than Valentine, Texas, which get its name from the popular saint. Don't drive through it too quickly though, or you might miss it — the town only has a population of 125, according to 2018 numbers.
29. There's a cool reason why we call people our Valentines.
According to legend, when St. Valentine was imprisoned, he wrote a letter and signed it "From your Valentine," Reader's Digest reports. The signature caught on, and now signing a love letter from a Valentine is common practice.
30. There's more to wearing the color red than you might think.
The color red has connotations of passion and sexuality, and it turns out science can actually back up those ideas. At the University of Rochester, psychologists found that men found women wearing red or standing in front of a red background to be significantly more attractive and sexually desirable than women wearing different colors. And it's not just women who are more attractive in red. The study found that women also had the same views of men who were sporting the color. So maybe now's the time to buy that red dress you've always been wanting.
31. X's and O's didn't always mean kisses and hugs.
It's believed that signing with an X comes from the Middle Ages, when an X was used in the place of a signature because many people couldn't read or write, according to The Knot. It also was a Christian symbol that represented the cross, and the idea is that the history of Christians kissing statues of Christ or kissing the bible led to X getting its meaning as a modern-day kiss.
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