Romance, love, flowers and candy hearts, that’s what Valentine’s day is all about, right? Not exactly – from its bloody origins to chocolaty modern day traditions, here are 21 interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Valentine’s Day.
1. Valentine’s Day started as a form of rebellion: The most popular theory about Valentine’s Day origin is that Emperor Claudius II didn’t want Roman men to marry during wartime. Saint Valentine went against his wishes and performed secret weddings for which he was jailed and eventually executed — but not before he wrote a love note to the jailer’s daughter… signing it, “From your Valentine.”
2. Chaucer may have invented Valentine’s Day: The medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer often took liberties with history, placing his poetic characters into fictitious historical contexts that he represented as real. No record exists of romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day prior to a poem Chaucer wrote around 1375. In his work “Parliament of Foules,” he links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day–an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention. The poem refers to February 14 as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. When Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,” he may have invented the holiday we know today.
3. Its first official celebration was to honor women’s rights : “The High Court of Love” was established in Paris, France, on this day in 1400 and is the first known official celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day. Composed of 30 women, it dealt with love contracts, violence against women, and betrayals.
4. The first recorded Valentine message was sent February 1415 by the English duke of Orleans. He sent a love letter to his wife from his jail cell in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt. It is currently on display in the British Museum.
5. Was considered a bad omen : In Victorian times it was considered bad luck to sign a Valentine’s Day card.
6. A messenger of trouble : According to Welsh tradition, a child born on Valentine’s Day would have many lovers. A calf born on Valentine’s Day, however, would be of no use for breeding purposes. If hens were to hatch eggs on Valentine’s Day, they would all turn out rotten.
7. A medieval twist on PDA : The saying “wearing your heart on your sleeve” is from the Middle Ages. Boys at this time would draw names of girls to see who would be their “Valentine” and then wear the name pinned on their sleeve for a week.
8. An Architectural inspiration : Madame Royale, daughter of Henry the IV of France, loved Valentine’s Day so much that she named her palace “The Valentine.”
9. Henry VIII decided when Valentine’s Day should be celebrated : Marrying a total of six women throughout his lifetime, there’s no denying Henry VIII was a BIG fan of women and probably a rather big romance – but did you know he is responsible for when we actually celebrate Valentine’s Day? Back in 1537, King Henry VIII declared by Royal Charter that Valentine’s Day would be a public holiday chose 14 February as the official day of celebration.
10. Equal blessings in both love and plague : Saint Valentine is the patron saint of lovers and engaged couples. He is also the patron saint of epilepsy (which he is said to have suffered), plague, greetings, travelers, young people, and beekeepers.
11. Hello Cadbury : Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in the late 1800s.
12. Say ‘x’ for kiss : ‘x’ symbol became synonymous with the kiss in medieval times when very few individuals could write and would end each of their Valentine letters with an ‘x’ embossed in wax or ink to show their sincerity.
13. An unlikely but lucrative Vocation : “Valentine Writers” were booklets written in 1823 by Peter Quizumall to help those who couldn’t think up Valentine verses on their own.
14. The start of a multi-million dollar industry : Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
15. My heart’s a tomato? What’s better than getting a sweet handmade Valentine’s Day card in the shape of a heart? In the 1920′s, it was a card shaped like a… tomato? Yep, back in the day, tomatoes were also known as “love apples”
16. Strength in numbers : 220,000 is the average number of wedding proposals on Valentine’s Day each year making February the second most popular month for wedding proposals after December
17. Celebrating iconic love : Juliet still gets love letters sent to her on Valentine’s Day : William Shakespeare’s most famous romance Romeo and Juliet has captured hearts for decades – so much so that Juliet still receives love letters on Valentine’s Day! Every year, the city of Verona in Italy (where the play was set) receives around 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet. Not bad for someone who’s been dead for hundreds of years.
18. Women buy most of the Valentine’s gifts – even the ones for themselves! Want to make sure you get what you want this Valentine’s? Then buy it yourself apparently! A massive 85% of ALL gifts for Valentine’s Day are bought by women which means a lot of us are picking up our own treats. Well, it beats getting lumbered with a tacky ornament we don’t like!
19. Teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards : In the United States, Valentine’s cards are big news for those of school age but surprisingly it is teachers, not pupils, who stand to benefit the most. Teachers generally receive the largest number of Valentine’s Day cards with children, mothers, wives and pets (yes, pets) filling the rest of the top five recipient’s list.
20. Flowers for love, but not always for romance : In 2015, 25% of adults bought flowers or plants as a Valentine’s gift. Of these, 60% were men and 40% were women. Men mainly bought flowers for romantic reasons, while women bought flowers for their mothers and friends as well as their sweethearts.
21. Missed 14th Feb? You can celebrate Valentine’s Day several times a year. Because of the abundance of St. Valentines on the Roman Catholic roster, you can choose to celebrate the saint multiple times each year. Besides February 14, you might decide to celebrate St. Valentine of Viterbo on November 3. Or maybe you want to get a jump on the traditional Valentine celebration by feting St. Valentine of Raetia on January 7. Women might choose to honor the only female St. Valentine (Valentina), a virgin martyred in Palestine on July 25, A.D. 308. The Eastern Orthodox Church officially celebrates St. Valentine twice, once as an elder of the church on July 6 and once as a martyr on July 30.