As Valentine’s Day approaches, millions of Americans are planning romantic dinners and surprises, maybe even proposals. Children are picking out just the right Valentine’s cards for their friends. Some adults also use this day to celebrate friendships. How did this day, February 14, grow to such significance in our culture? Here are 7 super interesting facts about Valentine’s Day.
1. The Origins of Valentine's Day
The origins of this holiday date back before the life of St. Valentine. In fact, scholars believe it dates back 27 centuries to the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, in which Romans were celebrating either Lupa, the mother of the founders of Rome, or Faunus, the fertility god. This festival began with animal sacrifice. Then men would run through the streets with strips of the animal hide, lashing women to bestow upon them fertility for the coming year. Thankfully, current Valentine’s Day traditions bear little resemblance to this early festival.
2. Who was St. Valentine?
The Catholic saint lived so long ago that there is some confusion about the historical St. Valentine, and it is possible that the holiday’s namesake is two separate men. The first was a Roman priest and doctor who was martyred in Rome around 270. He may also have been the bishop of Terni who was martyred in Rome. Some scholars even believe he was the same person. Either way, he is said to have married Christian lovers during the time of the persecution of Christians in Rome and is the patron saint of lovers, people with epilepsy, and beekeepers.
3. Cupid, a Symbol of Love
Cupid, the cherub with the bow and arrow who brings lovers together, started out as a Greek god. Eros, son of Aphrodite and Ares, helped the goddess of love interfere in the love life of mortals. For 300 years, artists depicted him as a young heartthrob who grew so powerful that people feared his influence. Later stories emphasized that he was a servant of his mother and he came to be seen more as a child than an adult. The Romans adopted the Greek collection of gods and gave Cupid his name. We still occasionally see images of him as a young man, but more often these days we see a mischievous baby helping people fall in love.
4. Why Do We Celebrate on February 14th?
February 14 was declared St. Valentine’s Day in the fifth century, but it was not associated with love until the 1380s. Two poets, Geoffrey Chaucer of England and Oton III de Granson of France wrote about February 14 as a holiday for love. Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls depicts a day that birds gather to choose their mates, supervised by nature. Granson wrote about Valentine’s Day as a day for human lovers to pledge their love to one another. Since then, Valentine’s Day has been a day set aside for people to celebrate love.
5. Valentine's Day Cards
The earliest recorded valentine was a love poem by a French duke named Charles to his wife in 1415. At the time, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He wrote, “I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine.” The tradition of sending Valentine’s cards and letters gained popularity in the 1600’s, but mass-produced Valentine’s cards did not emerge until the 1840s. Ester A. Howland marketed her elaborately decorated cards in the United States and launched a multi-million dollar industry.
6. Valentine's Day Candy
One of the most iconic symbols of Valentine’s Day is the candy hearts or conversation hearts as they have come to be known. Boston pharmacist Charles Oliver invented a machine that could produce throat lozenges but he soon changed his focus and founded the New England Confectionary Company or Necco. His brother realized they could stamp messages on the Necco wafers in 1866. Because they were much bigger than the candy hearts we buy today, the messages could be much longer, such as, “How long shall I have to wait? Please be considerate.” Now, Necco produces more than 8 billion candy hearts per year, almost 100,000 pounds per day all year long.
7. Valentine's Day Chocolate
We absolutely cannot forget the chocolate, especially those heart-shaped boxes that line grocery-store displays after New Year’s. Europeans had their first taste of chocolate, in the form of drinking chocolate, in the 1500’s, thanks to Spanish traders who brought it to the court of Spain. For hundreds of years, until the invention of the cocoa press in 1828, chocolate was too expensive for the average person. This press allowed the creation of cocoa powder and the mass production of eating chocolate as well as drinking chocolate. In 1861, Richard Cadbury created the first heart-shaped box of chocolates to celebrate the holiday. He even designed the beautiful boxes himself.
Valentine’s Day is the perfect moment to shower your beloved with tokens of your love or let your friends and family know that you value them. This year, consider showing them how much you care for them and their health with a gift of Superberries. Not only are they delicious and versatile, but as a superfood, they provide nutrients and antioxidants that can improve our health. Baking your loved ones a delicious Aronia berry dessert or giving them Super berries gummy chews is a wonderful way to show your appreciation.