Weird Things You Didn't Know About Valentine's Day

By Will Chen on 10 February 2007 (Updated 13 March 2013) 12 comments
Photo: suneko

We've been offering a lot of practical advice about Valentine's Day lately.

Sure, it's nice to know how to save money on flowers, make affordable romantic dinners, and find good excuses not to buy your girlfriend jewelry. But what is the real story behind this expensive holiday? (See also: Wise Bread's Guide to Valentine's Day)

The Price of Love

  • The average American will spend $119.67 on Valentine’s Day this year, up from $100.89 last year.
  • Men spend almost twice as much on Valentine’s Day as women do. This year, the average man will spend $156, while the average woman will only spend $85.
  • More than one-third of men would prefer not receiving a gift. Less than 20 percent of women feel the same way.
  • Around this season, a dozen long-stemmed roses can cost an average of $75, or about 30% more than the normal price of $58.
  • More than nine million pet owners are expected to buy gifts for their pets this Valentine's Day.
  • 15 percent of U.S. women send themselves flowers on Valentine's Day.

The Birds and the Bees

  • According to the condom company Durex, condom sales are highest around Valentine's Day, which are 20 percent to 30 percent higher than usual.
  • More at-home pregnancy tests are sold in March than in any other month.
  • Penicillin, a popular treatment for venereal diseases such as syphilis, was introduced to the world on February 14, 1929.

I Choo Choo Choose You

  • Teachers receive the most valentines, followed by kids, mothers, wives and sweethearts.
  • Over 50 percent of all Valentine's Day cards are purchased in the six days prior to the holiday.
  • The oldest surviving valentine dates from 1415. It is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife. At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.
  • One billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making it the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
  • In a classic Simpsons episode, Lisa gives Ralph a valentine with a picture of a locomotive saying "I Choo Choo Choose You." According to BoingBoing, a fan has lovingly recreated that card which you can download here.
  • Hallmark produced its first valentine in 1913.
  • Today, Hallmark employs an 80-person research staff to analyze the sales pattern of previous valentines. That analysis, combined with more than 100,000 annual customer interviews, focus groups and in-store observations, will help create roughly 2,000 cards in Hallmark's core Valentine's Day line.
  • While Hallmark offers thousands of different cards for Valentine's Day, one card was the top choice of customers in New York, Los Angeles, and virtually every other city in the country in 2006.
  • This card, romantically named V330-5 by Hallmark, simply states: "Each time I see you, hold you, think of you, here's what I do ... I fall deeply, madly, happily in love with you. Happy Valentine's Day." (The card is the red one pictured below.)

Sharing Love Around the World

  • In Japan, women are expected to give chocolate and other gifts to men on Valentine's Day. This tradition was started as a marketing campaign by Japanese chocolate companies. Men are not off the hook, unfortunately. They are expected to return the favor on March 14th, commonly known as White Day.
  • BBC reports that Shiv Sena, a nationalist political party in India, has spoken out against Valentine's day, calling it "nothing but a Western onslaught on India's culture to attract youth for commercial purposes."
  • The Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate. In 2001, the U.S. State Department reported child slavery on many cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. A 2002 report from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture estimated there were 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in hazardous conditions.
  • "I love you" in German is "Ich liebe dich."

History, Legends, and Rumors

  • The roots of St. Valentine's Day can be traced back to the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia. On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.
  • In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for one week. Today, to wear your heart on your sleeve means being transparent with your affections. (I'm having a tough time verifying this one, so please file this under "legends" instead of "history" for now.)
  • Three different Saint Valentines have been mentioned by the martyrologies of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • The Catholic Church struck St. Valentine’s Day from its official calendar in 1969.
  • The phrase "Sweets for the sweet" is a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 1.
  • 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.
  • Famous Valentine's Day birthdays: Thomas Malthus (1766), Frederick Douglass (1817), Jack Benny (1894), Jimmy Hoffa (1913), Hugh Downs (1921), Florence Henderson (1943), Carl Bernstein (1944), Tim Buckley (1946), Gregory Hines (1946), Jules Asner (1968), Rob Thomas (1972), Steve McNair (1973).

You Had Me at Hello

  • University of Maryland has a team of academic experts dedicated to educating the media about Valentine's Day. “No matter what angle you’re covering, the University of Maryland has the Valentine’s Day expert for you,” says their official website.
  • For every 120 single men who are in their 20s, there are 100 single women in the same age range.
  • The story changes drastically when we look at people over 65. Beyond 65, there are 33 single men for every 100 single women of the same age range. I guess all that extra spending for Valentine’s day takes a toll.

 

Greeting Cards 65% Plush 21%
Date Night 44% Other Gifts 17%
Candy 38% Perfume/Cologne 12%
Flowers 32% Jewelry 11%
Gift Cards 29%    

 

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW
  • Don't want to send mixed signals with your bouquet? Make sure you check out the secret color code of roses:
Red Yellow* Pink White* Lavender
True Love
Respect
Courage
Romantic
Love
I Love You
Congratulations
Job Well Done
Joy
Gladness
Freedom
Friendship
I Care
Welcome Back
Remember Me
Jealousy
Perfect
Happiness
Gentleness
Sweetness
Please Believe Me
Reverence
Purity
Innocence
Secrecy
I Am Wothy Of You
Keep a Secret
Enchantment
Light Pink Dark Pink Peach -Pink Peach Orange
Grace
Joy
Thankfulness Gratitude
Appreciation
Admiration
Sympathy
Lets Get Together
Sincerity
Gratitude
Appreciation
Fascination
Enthusiasm
Coral Red & White Black Deep Burgundy Red & Yellow Blend
Desire Unity Farewell
Death
Unconscious Beauty Jovial and happy feelings

* Note: In some cultures white and yellow flowers are used for funerals and considered bad luck. (Thanks Andrea and Yan!)

Source: Every Rose and Tillie's Flowers

Sources: CNN Money, CNN Money, Wikipedia, History Channel, American Catholic, The Hoya, KHNL, Japanese Food @ About.com, Religion Facts, College Sex Talk, Taipei Times, Tree Hugger, ABC 7, Denver Federal Executive Board, Corsinet, and Dr. Spock.

Additional photo credits: Skelekitten, parentsinpdx, JD Hancock, Javier Delgado.
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Guest's picture

We love that you took the time to find these great facts on Valentine's Day. As well as the meanings of flower colors and made a link to this post in our blog. Come check us out, sometime.

Will Chen's picture

I've stopped by your site and it looks great.  Thank you for your kind words.

Andrea Karim's picture

Trying to get it on with someone from Asia? Avoid white and yellow flowers, especially chyrsanthemums - those are the flowers used for funerals.

I'd expect you to know this, Will. Next thing we know, you're going to advocate giving clocks as gifts or standing one's chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice when dining in Beijing. What am I going to do with you?

Fantastic post, btw. You must have put a lot of work into it.

Guest's picture
Yan

I will double that about yellow flowers. I am from Europe and it is a custom to buy yellow flowers for funerals.

Great facts. I enjoyed it lot!

Andrea Karim's picture

Europeans, too! Bugger! There's not justice in this world, I tell ya.

I love coral flowers. It's a color that no one ever thinks to give, so when you receive flowers in that color, it's really special. That's what I would recommend. Plus, according to the chart, the color "code" indicates feelings of passion, which indicates that you will be naked within minutes of having presented them to your beloved.

Will Chen's picture

I've added your useful info on the chart.  Well spotted guys.  International incident averted.  =)

Andrea, I will officially admit that you know more about Chinese people than I do.  Which, as you well know, means you owe me a red envelope filled with cash for Chinese New Years.

Andrea Karim's picture

Just send me your address. I'll send you 500 fen right away.

Guest's picture
Suldog

Hello, Will:

Your submission will appear in "A Carnival Of Hijacked Holidays" this Monday. Thank you very much.

Jim Sullivan

Guest's picture

Interesting facts. Bad news is, it's still us, men who continue to spend more than women do. What about gender equalities now? This is so unfair. LOL

Guest's picture
Maggie

Great ideas, Linsey! I've saved plastic containers that cocoa or chocolate drink mix came in to store extra batteries. I just label the container & put it where I can find it. It's been very helpful. I save large instant coffee jars to store sugar. They keep the sugar from turning hard in the bag & are easy to store. I just write on the lids with a Sharpie. I buy rice in bulk at Sam's Club & store most of it in an empty popcorn tin. It's the kind that usually is for sale for holidays & contains 3 kinds of popcorn. The popcorn isn't that great, but the tin is! It is pretty air tight. I put a bay leaf in with the rice & have never had a problem with bugs. That tin is not stored in the kitchen, so I keep a smaller container of rice in the kitchen. It's a large plastic applesauce jar with a built-in grip. So it's easy to pour out what I need. We used to buy pretzels in bulk at Sam's. Not anymore, but we still have the large sturdy plastic jars they came in. They are great for storing flour, lentils, etc. I've even seen them used as terrariums, turned on the side. That kind has a flat side to it. Nice project for kids! Maggie www.squarepennies.blogspot.com

Guest's picture
JT

What's your source for the 15% of women buy themselves flower stat? A friend and I have heard this repeated a dozen times today and decided to research. We couldn't find any mention predating 2002 and even then there was no legitimate source material.

Guest's picture

Hell yeah! Rov Thomas's birthday is the only one that counts :)