Valentine’s Day is a time of hearts, love and chocolate, but did you know the holiday began as a pagan fertility festival?
The celebration of Lupercalia is believed to have begun in Rome some 2600 years ago to honor Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. And it was a pretty rowdy affair.
Also: did you know the oldest report of a Valentine’s card dates back to the early 1400s, when an imprisoned French duke wrote a letter to his wife, in which he declared his love for his “very gentle Valentine.”
Below are 14 fun Valentine’s Day Facts to impress your beloved.
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Fun Valentine’s Day Facts
- Cupid was known by the ancient Greeks as Eros, the god of love. He had two arrows: one for love and one for hate.
- There have been numerous St. Valentines throughout history. Three had special feast days in their honor. Historians think either Valentine of Rome or Valentine of Terni was the real-life inspiration for Valentine’s Day.
- Although people have been exchanging Valentine’s cards for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1840s that cards began being mass-produced and marketed by Esther Howland, known as the Mother of the American Valentine.
- Thousands of cards are received each year in Verona, Italy addressed to “Juliet” in honor of Shakespeare’s classic tale. Each letter is personally answered by a volunteer with the Juliet Club, with a prize going to the most romantic missive.
- Richard Cadbury is credited with popularizing (and profiting from) the practice of giving boxes of chocolates to one’s sweetheart.
- In the 1800s, people in the UK would send “vinegar valentines” – also called penny dreadfuls – to unwanted suitors.
- Red roses became a Valentine’s tradition in the 17th century, when King Charles II of Swedenproclaimed them the flowers of love.
- The phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve” has a literal origin: men in the Middle Ages would affix the name of their beloved on their shirtsleeves.
- More than $20 billion is spent each year in the US on Valentine’s Day gifts, with $2.4 billion doled out for candy alone.
- Fifty-five percent of Americans participate in the holiday by exchanging cards and gifts. Three percent of pet owners give their pets a Valentine’s card or gift.
- Close to 150 million Valentine’s cards are sent each year, according to Hallmark, making February 14 the second most popular day for greeting cards, trailing only Christmas.
- Teachers receive the most Valentine’s cards each year, followed by children, mothers and wives.
- Sweetheart candies were original lozenge-shaped. They began being imprinted with messages in the late 1800s, and soon afterwards were retooled as heart-shaped.
- Using X as a sign of a kiss dates back to the ancient custom of kissing one’s signature on a book, letter or important document.
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