And boy-oh-boy, is it ever in the air on Valentine’s Day!
Ever wonder why that is? Or how such an unremarkable (often unpleasantly cold) day in February became the poster child for romantic love? We looked it up. But since the history of Valentine’s Day really is the stuff of legend, you’ll have to take this with a grain of salt (preferably of the pink Himalayan sea variety, generously sprinkled on a bar of dark chocolate).
VALENTINE’S DAY THROUGH THE YEARS
- It’s generally agreed the holiday was named for a Roman priest called Valentine who lived in the third century. The then-emperor, Claudius II, believed that single men made the best soldiers, so he pronounced it unlawful for young men to marry. Valentine saw a terrible injustice in that and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When he was found out, Claudius had him sentenced to death; the priest was executed on February 14, 269 AD.
- It wasn’t until the late fifth century that the Catholic Church declared February 14 the Feast of St. Valentine.
- The day’s association with romantic love began in the Middle Ages (Fun fact: It was a common belief that February 14 was also the beginning of the mating season for birds, so that helped.)
- The holiday evolved through the fourteenth century (during the heyday of courtly love) through the eighteenth century, when lovers began expressing their affection in earnest, with flowers, confections, and greeting cards (known even then as valentines)—and beyond.
- Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Denmark, Italy, and Japan.
WHAT’S UP WITH ALL THE CARDS?
Americans began exchanging handmade valentines in the early 1700s. At the time, they were elaborate affairs made with lace and ribbons. The first mass-produced valentines in America were sold by one Esther A. Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1849. Hallmark offered its first Valentine’s Day cards in 1913 and began producing them in 1916. Today, more than 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, according to Hallmark, not counting the packaged valentines kids exchange at school.
SAY ANYTHING WITH FLOWERS
Back in the day when PDAs were frowned upon and your relationship status wasn’t something you posted, couples had to find clever ways to express sentiments of love and affection—and one of them was with flowers.
Floriography—the language of flowers—blossomed during the Victorian Era, when a strict code of etiquette governed daily life. Because flowers were assigned special meanings, they became a way for lovers to send coded messages. Thankfully, we can be a lot more upfront about our feelings today. But should you want to charm someone with your knowledge of floriography this Valentine’s Day, here are the meanings behind some favorite blooms, according to the flower pros at ProFlowers.
Red Rose: Love, romance
Pink Rose: Love, gratitude, appreciation
White Rose: Marriage, new beginnings
Orange Rose: Enthusiasm, passion
Yellow Rose: Friendship, joy, good health
Tulip: Perfect love
Iris: Faith, hope, wisdom
Carnation: Love, fascination
Chrysanthemum: Friendship, love, joy
Gladiolus: Strength, honor, infatuation
Gerbera Daisy: Beauty, innocence
BY THE NUMBER$
How much money will Americans spend this Valentine’s Day? Hint: It’s a lot.
- With 55 percent of the population celebrating the holiday this year, total spending is expected to reach $19.6 billion, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation. That’s up from $18.2 billion last year—and an average of $143.56 per person.
- Skewing the stats are consumers between 25 and 34, who’ll be the biggest spenders, at an average of $202.76.
- The breakdown: Most will spend an average $88.98 on a spouse or significant other; $25.29 on children, siblings, or parents; $7.26 on kids’ classmates/teachers; and $7.19 on friends. Interestingly, they’ll spend more on pets ($5.50) than co-workers ($4.79).
- Gifts, in order of spending, from most to least: jewelry; an evening out; flowers; clothing; candy; gift cards/gift certificates; greeting cards.
WE’LL DRINK TO THAT!
This is one of our favorite ways to celebrate the day (with or without a Valentine).
Makes 2 cocktails
4 oz. vodka
2 oz. cranberry juice
1.5 oz. fresh lime juice
1.5 oz. triple sec
Lime wedges for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice, and triple sec. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain cocktail evenly into two martini glasses and garnish with lime wedges.
For a non-alcoholic version, add a splash of cranberry juice to 5–6 ounces of sparkling water and garnish with lime wedges and/or raspberries.