Millions of Americans will be lining up to buy their lovers chocolate covered strawberries and bouquets of roses this Valentine's Day. But have you ever wondered how this day dedicated to love came to be? With the help of Kathleen Davis, deputy editor of Fact Company, we've uncovered the most interesting facts about the sweetest holiday of the year.
1. Valentine's Day started with the Romans.
There are two theories about the origin of Valentine's Day. According to History.com, one is that the day derives from Lupercalia, a raucous Roman festival on February 15th where men stripped naked and spanked young maidens in the hopes of upping 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, 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.
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, Time reports. Before Howland commercialized them, American valentines were less romantic and more comic. 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. 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% 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 The Huffington Post, the conversation 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 aren't just for show.
In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, 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 they 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% of millennials chose Valentine's Day as their top choice of 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 $18.2 billion for Valentine's Day in 2017 and were expected to spend $19.6 billion in 2018.
14. Men and women prefer the same of candy.
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% 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, 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% of consumers told the National Retail Federation they wanted an "experience gift"— a.k.a. tickets to a concert or other event, an outdoor activity, or an evening out — although only 24% planned to give one. This gift option is particularly popular with millennials: 45% of people ages 18-24 and 40 percent of people ages 25-34 said they planned to give experiences for Valentine's Day.
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!