Interesting facts about Valentine’s Day

Michael Klein, Editor in Chief

From as early as elementary school, Valentine’s Day is engrained in us as an important holiday. Our moms bought us a box of whichever Valentine was coolest at the time. We spent class time decorating shoe boxes with construction paper and glitter, and on Valentine’s Day we’d open our boxes to find a Valentine from each one of our classmates. There was a party or a dance (in the gym, of course) with cupcakes and those little conversation hearts that don’t taste particularly great, but everyone eats them anyways.

When we get older, as with most everything, Valentine’s Day changes. Stereotypically, men have more of a burden. They’re expected to shower their woman with jewelry, candy, flowers, take them out to a nice restaurant for a romantic dinner. Even if your girl says you don’t need to get her anything, Heaven help the guy who completely ignores the holiday.

As adults, we tend to either love or hate the holiday. Some are cynical: “It’s a ‘Hallmark holiday’” or we fully embrace it “It’s a chance for me to show my man/woman how much I love and appreciate them.” Why does Valentine’s Day exist? Some research turned up some interesting facts about the holiday, its origins, and how it is celebrated, here and abroad.

Valentine’s Day contains elements of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends St Valentine was a priest in third century Rome who would perform secret marriage ceremonies for young soldiers and their beloved. These marriages were outlawed by Emperor Claudius II, who had decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and children. When Claudius discovered what Valentine was doing, he sentenced him to death. Stories suggest that while imprisoned, the saint would send handwritten messages to a girl he’d fallen in love with (rumored to be his jailer’s daughter), signing these greetings: “From your Valentine.”

It is believed that Americans started sending each other hand-made valentines in the early 1700s, but in the 1840s, Esther A. Howland (known as the “Mother of Valentine’s Day”) began selling the first mass-produced valentines, which were decorated with colorful pictures, lace, and ribbon. According to the American Greeting Card Association, it’s estimated that 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent every year, making the holiday second only to Christmas in that respect. Remember how I mentioned that, stereotypically, men bear the burden of Valentine’s Day? It turns out that women purchase 85 percent of all valentines.

Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, France, and Australia also recognize Valentine’s Day as a holiday. In Mexico, it’s referred to as “El Dia del Amor y la Amistad” (the day of love and friendship), but mostly, as with Canada, Valentine’s Day is celebrated the same way as in the States. Australians celebrate in much the same way, though they emphasize love for family and friends as much as romantic love. In England, Valentine’s Day marks the end of winter and beginning of spring, which Brits are all-too happy to celebrate. Also, young girls will wake up early to look out their window, for a long-held belief in Britain is that the first man a woman sees on Valentine’s Day is her soul mate. The French took things to another level back in 1400, when they established a High Court of Love to deal with love contracts (whatever that is) and betrayals. The judges of this court were chosen by women on the basis of a poetry reading.

Valentine’s Day Facts

Why are red, white, and pink associated with Valentine’s Day?

  • Red is associated with love, white with purity. Pink is the combination of the two.
  • Pink was considered a “boy’s” color due to its close association to the color red, which was seen as a “fiery, manly” color. Blue being more suited for girls, because many depictions of the Virgin Mary showed her in blue. For reasons unknown, the color designations changed in the 1940s and have stayed that way ever since.

Why are flowers given on Valentine’s Day?

  • Legend has it that the aforementioned St Valentine who was jailed for marrying young couples in secret, sent one red rose along with the love notes he sent to his sweetheart.
  • Roses are said to have been the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.

Why is Cupid associated with Valentine’s Day?

  • In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of love. Cupid is sometimes shown blindfolded, adding to that old adage “love is blind.”

Other random Valentine’s Day facts:

  • 51 percent of Americans buy red roses for the holiday (64 percent of men buy flowers for their sweethearts while only 36 percent of women do).
  • Per person average spending is estimated at $130.97, with a total of $18.6 billion total spent on Valentine’s Day cards, candy, flowers, jewelry and other gifts.
  • We can’t forget our pets – we love them, right? Estimates from 2012 were that pet owners spent $4.52 on giving their pet a proper Valentine’s Day.
  • 40.7 percent of Americans will use their smartphones to purchase Valentine’s Day gifts, and 29 percent of people will send a romantic text message.
  • Sex is important on Valentine’s Day. At least, according to 85 percent of men and women.

Valentine’s Day can be as extravagant or simple as you want. Most of us agree “it’s the thought that counts” when it comes to cards and gifts. Whether you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day at all is up to you, of course. Let’s just hope your significant other is on the same page, lest you have a very awkward Feb. 14.