There's no doubt about it, Valentine's Day is one of Americas most popular holidays. More than 62% of Americans celebrate by sending greeting cards and flowers, giving candy or other gifts, enjoying romantic dinners, or all three.
But, the history behind Valentine's day turns out to be somewhat surprising. For example, the roots of Valentine's day go all the way back to a raucous ancient Roman fertility festival held in mid-February called, Lupercalia.
Later, the Christian Church chose mid-February for St. Valentine's Day in order to Christianize the celebration. But, who was St. Valentine?
Not much is known about the holiday's namesake. First of all, there was more than just one Christian cleric named Valentine. One of them was sentenced to death for performing marriage ceremonies in secret after emperor Claudius II banned marriage for young Roman men thinking single men made better soldiers.
Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as a day for honoring the soft-hearted Valentine at the end of the 5th century. It wasn't until the 1300's though, that the holiday became definitively associated with love and romance. Back then, people believed that February 14th was also the beginning of bird mating season.
The first written Valentine greetings appeared in the 15th century and, by the 17th century, people in Great Britain had begun a tradition of exchanging Valentine's Day cards or letters.
Valentine's Day soon caught on in the U.S. as well. The first mass produced holiday cards emerged in the 1840's, and Valentine's Day soon exploded into a major consumer holiday.
Today, an estimated 1 billion Valentine cards are sent each year. More than on any other holiday, except for Christmas. More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold, and more than 220 million roses are produced for the holiday in a typical year.
All together, Americans spend almost $20 billion on Valentine's Day. Or, an average of some $130 per person per year.
While the most popular gifts were candy and flowers, nearly 20% of Americans splurge on jewelry, shelling out as much as $4 billion annually. And those that prefer the ultimate romantic gesture, are definitely not alone.
A recent survey revealed that as many as 6 million couples are likely to get engaged on February 14th, continuing a long, romantic history that we bet you didn't know!