14 Valentine’s Day facts you didn’t know about St Valentine, Cupid and traditions
Unfortunately for many, Valentine’s Day cannot be avoided.
Supermarkets line the aisles with copious amounts of chocolate, sickly sweet cards and all the heart-shaped merchandise you could think of.
The day has become another corporate extravaganza, with couples outdoing themselves in lavish and often cringey gestures of love.
Here are some fun facts about Valentine’s Day you may not know:
Saint Valentine was a real person
Valentine’s Day is the celebration of the life of Saint Valentine, a Roman priest who was executed for continuing to marry Christian couples when Emperor Claudius Gothicus banned marriages in 460 AD.
The idea of sending love letters and cards to your spouse or partner is a nod to Saint Valentine, who wrote letters to Claudius’ daughter - signed “from your Valentine”.
Valentine’s Day was a Christian way to replace a pagan festival
According to History.com, Valentine’s Day may have been coined by Christians to replace an old pagan festival of fertility which dates as far back as 6th century BC.
During the festival of Lupercalia, priests would kill goats and dogs and use their blood-soaked hides to slap women on the streets, as a fertility blessing (how romantic).
Cupid was a mythical Roman God
Cupid, another symbol of love, is rooted in Greek mythology and did not become acquainted with Valentine’s Day until the 1800s.
According to myth, Cupid was the son of Mercury, the winged messenger of the gods, and Venus, the goddess of love.
He was the ancient Roman god of love in all its varieties - the equivalent of the Greek god Eros.
An imprisoned Duke was the first to send a love letter on Valentine’s Day
The first Valentine’s letter recorded was sent in 1415, by a French medieval duke, Charles of Orleans, to his wife.
He sent it while imprisoned in the Tower of London and it read: “I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine."
Valentine’s cards didn’t become tradition until 1849
The tradition of giving Valentine’s cards did not begin until the 1800s, when publisher Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, published the first American Valentine’s card in 1849.
Hallmark began producing cards for 14 February in 1913, and mass production began in 1916.
The first Valentine’s chocolates were made by Cadbury
Cadbury was the first company to celebrate love with chocolate, selling heart-shaped boxes in 1861.
Nowadays over 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are sold each year, equating to over 26 million kilograms of chocolate.
Flowers were first sent as a non-verbal love message
The idea of sending flowers was created by King Charles II of Sweden, as a non-verbal way of sending a message.
Each flower meant something different and they were used to have a romantic conversation without words.
Flowers were first given as a symbol of fertility on 14 February in the 15th and 16th century, as love is associated with marriage and children.
Heart-shaped sweets started out as throat lozenges
You might think Swizzels' are the creators of heart-shaped sweets for Valentine’s Day, but the first heart sweets were created by a US pharmacist named Oliver Chase and were lozenges.
His brother, Daniel, then began printing them with romantic messages and the medicinal sweets became associated with the celebration of love.
It is a popular day for proposals
Over 10,000 people in the UK propose to their partners on Valentine’s Day each year.
However, it is not the most common day for popping the question, as Christmas Day trumps the list of special days to get down on one knee.
According to a survey by jeweler James Allen, 43 percent of millennials think Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day for proposals, and jewelry sales produce the most amount of profit as a Valentine’s gift.
The UK spends a lot on romance
In 2020, the UK spent a record high of £855m on Valentine’s Day, up from £853m in 2019 and £726m in 2018. (Statistica).
On average, men spent £40 on their partner on Valentine’s Day, whereas women spent an average of £24, although this is expected to drop by around 33 percent this year.
Over 220 million roses are bought for Valentine’s Day
About 224 million roses are grown and sold for Valentine’s Day for sale in the UK, with around 75 percent bought by men.
Juliet still receives thousands of letters
Thousands of letters to Juliet are sent to Verona, Italy each year, in a nod to Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliet. Every letter is answered by volunteers from the Juliet Club and they award the "Cara Giulietta" ("Dear Juliet") prize to the most romantic author.
Women are the gift-givers in Japan
The tables are turned In Japan, with women making the first move on Valentine’s Day by giving men honmei-choco, a homemade chocolate. Men then acknowledge their affection on March 14, White Day, when women receive white chocolate and other white gifts.
Friends are the real winners in Finland and Estonia
Finland and Estonia celebrate Friend’s Day on February 14, similar to Galentine’s Day. Cards and gifts are given to everyone from a friend to a neighbour.
However, Valentine’s Day is still celebrated as a popular day to get engaged in both countries.
In Estonia, singletons can also take a ride on the Love Bus, in hopes of meeting an admirer.