Tastier than a box of chocolates, and far less likely to expand your waistline: entertain your friends and loved ones this Valentine's Day with some of these tasty trivia tidbits on love, romance, candy, and the holiday we love to hate...*
*Cautionary note: If you are in the midst of the wooing process, we do not recommend you attempt to substitute trivia for actual gift. This is generally not well received.
Long before the first greeting cards were ever sent, February was a month to celebrate love and its trappings…
- For the ancient Greeks, the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera.
- Lest the Greeks take all the credit, Valentine’s Day also has roots in the Roman fertility celebration of Lupercalia (February 13-15).
- While the holiday takes its name from a St. Valentine, history is muddy on specifically which St. Valentine: The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend refers to a St. Valentine who was executed for defying the Roman Emperor Claudius II by performing secret marriages. (Claudius had outlawed marriages for young men, because single men made better soldiers during war time)—and then was executed for it.
- Regardless of which St. Valentine is the patron saint of the greeting card industry today, the feast of St. Valentine was officially removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969.
Letters of Love
- The first recorded reference to Valentine's Day as a celebration of romantic love was in Geoffrey Chaucer's “Parlement of Foules” (1382), commemorating the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia.
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
- The oldest surviving Valentine poem dates from 1415, and was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, while the duke was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.
- Approximately 180 million Valentine’s cards change hands every year…but it is NOT the most popular greeting card holiday. That honor goes to Christmas.
- 85% of Valentine’s Day cards are purchased by women (And 15% of women will send flowers…to themselves).
- When you think iconic Valentine's Day treats, you probably think of chocolate. But the tasty confection wasn't always a decadent candy--in fact, for most of its history, chocolate was a bitter beverage.
- The origin of the word "chocolate" has been traced to the Aztec word xocoatl—a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans.
- Chocolate first came to Europe in 1528, when Hernando Cortéz presented King Charles V of Spain with cocoa beans from the New World. Cortez also suggested adding sugar to the bitter drink—resulting in a delicacy reserved for the elite.
- The first Valentine's Day box of chocolates was introduced by Richard Cadbury in 1868.
- Daniel Chase (brother of NECCO® founder Oliver Chase) created the first “conversation hearts” in 1866. Now, from mid-February to January, NECCO® rolls out nearly 100,000 pounds of its iconic Sweethearts® every day—making it the most popular Valentine’s candy (yep—more than chocolate). More than 8 billion Sweethearts® means candy for everyone!
Tokens of My Affection
- According to the National Retail Federation, approximately 54.8 percent of consumers planned to celebrate Valentine's Day last year, with total spending reaching $19.7 billion.
- Approximately $681 million of that went to the dogs. Literally. That’s what consumers spent on treats and toys for their pets on Valentine’s Day—double what pet owners spent on Halloween costumes.
- There’s a reason the “granddaddy of them all” (aka the “Rose Bowl”) is in California. The home of the Tournament of Roses and Rose Parade produces approximately 60% of the roses grown in the United States. BUT…the majority of flowers purchased in the U.S. for Valentine's Day, however, are grown in South America.
- Giving a ring to your beloved is a tradition dating back to Roman times, but giving a diamond is relatively "recent": the first recorded occurrence of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477, when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave one to his fiancée, Mary of Burgundy.
- Famous Valentine's Day weddings: The Captain and Tennille, Elton John and Renate Blauel, Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, Jerry Garcia and Deborah Koons, and Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee.
- Approximately 9,000 (totally in love) couples take out a marriage license each year...and then fail to use it.