Yeah, this is the big day for roses and chocolate and those mood-drenched candlelight dinners. Let’s put it all in some perspective.
- Historically, it overlaps an ancient three-day Roman festival that included drunkenness, nudity, sacrifices of dogs and goats, and slapping by goatskins intended to heighten fertility. It was something the early church tried to deflect by invoking Saint V.
- As for the saint? The bio gets mysterious. Did the man really exist? Or was it eight?
- The oldest printed card, 1797, cited a day the sender desired to “be your Valentine.” Whatever that meant.
- The Quaker Cadbury chocolate company introduced the Valentine’s Day heart-shaped box in 1861 but failed to register the design. Copycats soon piled on.
- About a billion cards are sent for Valentine’s Day every year, second only to the 2½ billion at Christmas.
- Nasty cards have also been part of the tradition. Ever get a “vinegar Valentine”? Anyone else intrigued?
- It’s big business – by one count, $27 billion pre-Covid, with candy – mostly chocolate? – the biggest gift, followed by cards, roses, romantic dinners, and, for ten percent of recipients, jewelry. Not that you’re limited to just one category. And I’m not sure if the ranking is by the quantity of each one or by the amount spent.
- As for that jewelry? Much of it takes the shape of engagement rings – with six million being presented on the day every year.
- In Japan, women are expected to give the chocolate.
- Teachers receive the most cards, maybe because children age six to ten, exchange the three-fifths of the cards overall.
So far, I haven’t found perfumes, love potions, or aphrodisiacs on the list.