It comes around once a year and is usually touted as a big corporate scheme. But Valentine's Day is way more than just a Hallmark holiday.
1. It has some pretty dark roots.
Historians believe Valentine's Day actually began in Ancient Rome as a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, which included sacrificing animals and whipping women with animal skins until they bled, signifying their fertility. So romantic.
2. In the 1300s, it officially became a holiday associated with love and romance.
The holiday was Christianized — no more animal sacrifices! — and was celebrated in mid-February because many believed that birds started their mating season on February 14, which is why doves are often associated with love.
3. Saint Valentine wasn't just one person.
In fact, he might have been two or three. But the most common "founder" of Valentine's Day was the Saint Valentine who defied Emperor Claudius II. At the time, Claudius had banned marriage because he thought it distracted young soldiers. Valentine felt a bit differently — he illegally married couples until he was caught. After he was sentenced to his death, young couples would visit his cell and give him flowers and cards. And the day he actually died? February 14. Allegedly.
But there have been multiple St. Valentines throughout history, including one pope. (He only served for 40 days in 827 A.D.)
4. The first valentines were sent in the 15th century.
But not until the 17th century did people start exchanging cards and letters. And Valentine's Day cards weren't mass-produced until the 1840s.
5. Today, it's pretty big business.
About 55% of Americans celebrate Valentine's Day and spend an a year, including more than $1.7 billion on candy alone. On average, men spend $150 on Valentine's Day. And the women? Just $74. Step it up, ladies!
6. Americans send 141 million Valentine's Day cards each year.
That's more than any other holiday except Christmas. And how sweet: Teachers receive the most Valentine's Day cards annually, followed by children, mothers, and wives.
7. And nearly 9 million Americans will buy gifts or cards for their dogs.
Hey, furry friends need love, too.
8. The most popular gift on Valentine's Day is flowers.
Followed by chocolate and then jewelry. Americans send more than 220 million roses each year, and as many as six million couples will get engaged on February 14. (February is the second most popular month after December for proposals.)
9. The first heart-shaped box of chocolates was introduced in 1868.
Today, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are sold each year. That's 58 million pounds of chocolate.
10. Necco Sweethearts — a.k.a. conversation hearts — were invented in 1866.
Each box has approximately 45 sayings — including "True Love," "Hug Me," and "You Rock" — but you can personalize your own, too. And about 10 new sayings are added each year.
11. More than 8 billion conversation hearts are manufactured each year.
And Necco has to start making them just days after February 14 to have enough in time for the next Valentine's Day. That's almost 100,000 pounds per day. But don't worry if you still have last year's box — they have a shelf life of five years.
12. Apparently, condom sales rise in February.
Sales are almost . And maybe not so surprisingly, more at-home pregnancy tests are sold in March than any other month.
13. Lace is commonly used in Valentine's Day decorations.
It comes from the Latin lacques, which means to snare or to net, as in catch a person's heart.
14. It's celebrated differently around the world.
Many Latin American countries know the holiday as el día de los enamorados (day of lovers) or día del amor y la amistad (day of love and friendship.)
In Japan, it's customary for just the women to give confections to the men in their lives, with the quality of the chocolate indicating their true feelings, according to . On March 14, the men repay the favor by celebrating the increasingly popular "White Day."