1. It has some pretty dark roots.
Historians believe Valentine‘s Day actually began in Ancient Rome as a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, with the celebration dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and Roman founders Romulus and Remus.The day was celebrated with activities that included sacrificing animals and whipping women with animal skins until they bled, signifying their fertility.
2. In the 1300s
The holiday was Christianized — no more animal sacrifices! — when the Roman Pope Gelasius officially declared the date of February 14 “St. Valentine’s Day.” The day then became associated with love because many believed that birds started their mating season on February 14.
3. Saint Valentine wasn’t just one person.
In fact, he might have been two or three. But the most common “founder” of Valentine’s Day was the Saint Valentine who defied Emperor Claudius II. At the time, Claudius had banned marriage because he thought it distracted young soldiers. Valentine felt a bit differently — he illegally married couples until he was caught. After he was sentenced to his death, young couples would visit his cell and give him flowers and cards. And the day he actually died? February 14. Allegedly.
4. The first valentine was sent in the 15th century.
The oldest record of a valentine being sent, according to History.com, was a poem written by a French medieval duke named Charles to his wife in 1415. Charles penned this sweet note to his lover while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London at just 21 years old. One of the lines in the poem? “I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine.” Swoon!
5. Not until the 1840s did we get the first mass-produced valentines.
People started exchanging cards and handwritten letters to both lovers and friends during the 17th century, but it was in the 1840s that the first Valentine’s Day cards were mass-produced in the U.S., sold by Esther A. Howland. Known as the “Mother of the American Valentine,” Howland is credited with commercializing Valentine’s Day cards in America, and she is remembered for her elaborate, crafty cards made with lace and ribbons.
5. Today, it’s pretty big business.
About 55% of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day and spend an estimated $19.6 billion a year, including more than $1.8 billion on candy alone. This year specifically, men say they expect to spend $338 on Valentine’s Day. And the women? Just $64. Time to step it up, ladies!
6. Americans send 145 million Valentine’s Day cards each year.
Which makes it the second biggest holiday for exchanging greeting cards, after Christmas! And how sweet: Teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards annually, followed by children, mothers, and wives. Needless to say, we’ve come a long way from 1913, which was when Hallmark Cards produced their first Valentine’s card!
7. And they also spend nearly $650 million on gifts for their pets.
Hey, furry friends need love, too! In fact, more than 5 million American households gave Valentine’s Day presents to their pet dogs last year, and more than 2 million picked up presents for their cats. But even though more Americans buy gifts for their dogs, people actually spend more on their pet kitties — an average of about $96 per household, compared to $81 for dogs!
8. The Valentine’s Day gift that people spend the most on is jewelry.
Candy and flowers might be the most common gifts for Valentine’s Day, but according to the National Retail Federation, the category that we spend the most on for February 14 is jewelry, at a whopping $4.7 billion! The second most-paid-for gift is an evening out with $3.7 billion, followed by flowers, clothing, and then candy.
9. The first heart-shaped box of chocolates was 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. He introduced the first heart-shaped box of chocolates for V-Day in 1861, and today, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are sold each year. That’s 58 million pounds of chocolate!
10. Conversation hearts got their start as medical lozenges.
Weirdly enough, the story of conversation hearts first began when a Boston pharmacist named Oliver Chase invented a machine that simplified the way medical lozenges — used for sore throats and other illnesses — could be made. The result was America’s first candy-making machine,
because the pharmacist soon started shifting his focus from making lozenges to candy instead! Chase founded the New England Confectionery Company, or Necco, and the candy lozenges soon became what we know today as Necco wafers.
11. But it wasn’t until 1866 that we first got sweet printed messages on conversation hearts.
It was Oliver’s brother, Daniel Chase, who started printing sentimental messages on the Necco sweethearts, though these candies were bigger than the versions we have today — and featured much longer printed sayings and phrases. Some of the first messages? “Married in white you have chosen right” and “How long shall I have to wait? Please be considerate.”
12. More than 8 billion conversation hearts are manufactured each year.
And Necco has to start making them just days after February 14 to have enough in time for the next Valentine’s Day. That’s almost 100,000 pounds per day! Each box has approximately 45 sayings — including “True Love,” “Hug Me,” and “You Rock” — but you can personalize your own, too. But don’t worry if you still have last year’s box — they have a shelf life of five years.