50 Bits of Valentine’s Day Trivia You Probably Didn’t Know
Many people identify Valentine’s Day with love, chocolates, flowers, and expensive (read: costly) dinners at upmarket restaurants. While many people associate Valentine’s Day with those items, there’s a lot more to the celebration than that. What better way to learn about February 14 than to brush up on some great Valentine’s Day trivia?
1. Valentine’s Day started with the Romans.
There are two theories about the origin of Valentine’s Day. Some believe the day derives from Lupercalia, a raucous Roman festival on February 15th where men stripped naked and spanked young maidens in the hopes of increasing 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. In the spirit of love, St. Valentine defied the ban and performed secret marriages, and for his disobedience, Valentine was executed on February 14 around the year 270 A.D.
2. Valentine’s Day was first declared a holiday by a pope.
In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius I made the feast of St. Valentine an official holiday, apparently hoping to expel the pagan rituals of Lupercalia by combining it with St. Valentine’s Day.
3. The holiday was later removed from the Roman Calendar of Saints.
After the Second Vatican Council in 1969, Pope Paul VI decided to remove St. Valentine’s Day from the calendar of major holidays, mostly because very little about the actual St. Valentine could be verified. However, its religious observance is still allowed. Anglicans and Lutherans recognize February 14 as an official feast day, while the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates St. Valentine on July 6.
4. The first Valentine’s Day celebration occurred in Paris.
The first known official celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day took place in Paris on February 14, 1400, which is when King Charles VI of France established La cour amoureuse, or the High Court of Love. The court, entirely run by women, met to deal with marriage contracts, divorces, infidelity, and domestic violence.
5. Passing out Valentines is a 600-year-old tradition.
The oldest record of a Valentine is a poem Charles, the Duke of Orleans, wrote to his wife when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415, in which he refers to his wife as his “Valentine.” For lack of a better phrase, the rest is history.
6. Today, millions of greeting cards are purchased every year.
We’re talking 145 million greeting cards being exchanged industry-wide every year for Valentine’s Day in the U.S. alone, according to Hallmark, making it the second largest holidays for greeting cards after Christmas.
7. Esther Howland is the first manufacturer of Valentines.
Before Esther Howland commercialized Valentine’s Day cards and became known as the “Mother of the American Valentine,” Valentines in America were less romantic and more comical. 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. starting in the 1870s. Needless to say, they took off.
8. You could once buy booklets devoted to writing Valentine’s Day cards.
Around the turn of the 19th century, those who struggled to come up their own Valentines messages could purchase Valentine Writers, which were six-penny pamphlets containing popular collections of pre-written love messages to be used as inspiration.
9. An infamous king made Valentine’s Day an official holiday.
In 1537, England’s King Henry VIII officially declared February 14 the holiday of St. Valentine’s Day by royal charter. And yes, he is the monarch who had six wives: one who died, one who survived, two who he divorced, and two who he beheaded.
10. “Vinegar Valentines” were used to deter suitors in Victorian England.
During the Victorian Era and into the 20th century, those who didn’t want the attention of certain suitors would anonymously send “vinegar valentines” or “penny dreadfuls,” which would range from sassy to cruel and could be purchased to insult just about anyone in your life.
11. English women believed bay leaves to bring good luck on Valentine’s Day.
Vinegar Valentines aren’t the only strange Valentine’s Day tradition from England. In the 1700s, rural English women would pin five bay leaves to their pillows — one in the center and four on the corners — on the night of February 13 in order to have sweet dreams about their future husbands.
12. 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. After identifying an opportunity to revolutionize the candy business, Chase shifted his focus to candy production with Necco wafers.
13. 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. It wasn’t until 1902 that the conversational candies officially became heart-shaped.
14. Candy hearts weren’t available in 2019.
In 2018, Necco declared bankruptcy, forcing the company to close its original plant and sell off its candy brands. Spangler Candy Company ended up acquiring the rights to Sweethearts, and after setting up production in a new plant, Sweethearts returned to shelves in 2020 — but not without a few changes due to equipment problems. Luckily, by 2021, Spangler had worked out the kinks.
15. February 14 is a busy day for restaurants.
Unsurprisingly, Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, second only to Mother’s Day.
16. 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, and they would wear the name pinned to their sleeve for one week so that everyone would know their supposed true feelings.
17. Cupid’s bow and arrow weren’t just for show.
In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, and he’s often depicted with a bow and arrows to pierce hearts and cast a spell of love.
18. People consider pink and red the colors of love.
According to the National Confectioners Association, around 65 percent of Americans believe that the packaging of Valentine’s Day candies and chocolates should be red and pink.
19. The heart shape wasn’t always a romantic symbol.
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.
20. Valentine’s Day wasn’t always a romantic holiday.
February 14 wasn’t associated with romantic love until the late 14th century, which is when Geoffrey Chaucer published his poem “The Parliament of Fowls.” In the poem, he calls St. Valentine’s Day the day when birds choose their mates, and from then on, people started considering the holiday a romantic one.
To read the the remaining 30 interesting facts about Valentines Day from Women’s Day – Click here