Nine facts about Valentine's Day

Posted Feb 13, 2014 by Tim Sandle
Valentine's Day has arrived. Putting aside questions about the commercial nature of the day, here are nine interesting, and surprising, Valentine's Day related facts.
Valentine's Day, alternatively known as Saint Valentine's Day or Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14 each year in many countries around the world. Other than lovers smooching over a candle-lit dinner (or husbands rushing to stores on their way home from work to secure a bunch of wilting flowers), what is interesting about Valentine's Day?
1. St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The real Saint Valentine, assuming that there was such a person, didn't seem to have much fun. Nobody is even sure if he was Valentine of Rome, or Valentine of Terni. Neither of these historical figures found lasting love — just a beating and decapitation by the Romans. With Valentine of Rome, an embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell (at least that gave Hallmark something to base card sales on).
2. Can you guess who gets the most Valentines? It's teachers (at least according to one survey).
3. In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man's Valentine Writer. It was full of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own. From this, the Daily Telegraph notes, postal services became more affordable, and so the anonymous St Valentine's Day card became possible.
4. The traditional Valentine’s ‘heart’ shape might derive from the seed of the silphium plant, used in ancient times as a herbal contraceptive. Perhaps less romantic, early visual representations in religious art made the heart look more like a pine cone.
5. The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates approximately 190,000,000 valentines are sent each year in the U.S.. That's the same as sending three cards to everyone in France. Apparently the first person to send a Valentine’s note was a Frenchman called Charles, Duke of Orleans. The Duke was imprisoned in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
6. Appropriate for Digital Journal's medium, an estimated 15 million e-valentines were sent in 2010.
7. In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts. Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped box. In the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as an occasion for giving jewelry.
8. This year, a Manhattan restaurant is serving up once-in-a-lifetime $30,000 Valentine's Day dinner, according to the Daily News. What do you get for your money? The meal includes $1,600 an ounce Royal Osetra caviar; a molten chocolate lava cake topped with edible 24-carat gold leaf; and plenty of Shelter Island oysters.
9. And just to end on, penicillin – the most common treatment for syphilis – was discovered on Valentine’s Day 1928.