Entertaining, Holiday, Seasonal

Valentines: Fun Facts, Gift Guide and Brief History

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Valentine’s Day… the day we celebrate love, new and old… a day that has become synonymous with flowers, cards and chocolate.  According to the History Channel, approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.  It might seem that the day is more about shopping than loving. Let’s take a look at some fun statistics and then learn about how this day really came to be.

 CNN breaks our spending down this way:
$130.97 — The per person average estimated amount that people will spend on Valentine’s Day.
224 million — The estimated number of roses grown for Valentine’s Day.
51% — The percentage of people who buy red roses for this holiday.
64% — The percentage of men who buy flowers for Valentine’s Day. (I want to know why this number is so low!)
36% — The percentage of women who buy flowers for Valentine’s Day.
$18.6 billion — The total spending that will be reached by Valentine’s Day.
$1.6 billion — The amount people will spend on candy.
$1.9 billion — The amount people will spend on flowers.
$4.4 billion — The amount people will spend on diamonds, gold and silver. (I like this! Diamonds, gold and silver won’t wilt or expand our waistlines!)
$4.52 — The average amount pet owners spent on their pets on Valentine’s Day in 2012. (It seems there aren’t too many diamond, silver or gold collars being purchased.)
151 million — The approximate number of cards that are exchanged on Valentine’s Day. (The Hallmark card company has 1400 varieties for this day alone!)

But what does any of this really have to do with Valentine’s Day? To find out I needed a bit of a refresher course.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. (Well gosh, this doesn’t sound too romantic.)

Some believe that Valentine’s Day  was moved to February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death (circa A.D. 270) in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. At the end of the 5th century this festival was deemed “un-Christian” and banned.  Pope Gelasius who declared the 14th of February as St. Valentine’s Day, but it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that it was truly celebrated as it  was commonly believed that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season; Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Valentines date back to the Middle Ages, although written versions didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known Valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.)  

But who is St. Valentine?  There are two different accounts but because both are so similar, many historians believed that they may actually refer to the same person. But no one knows for sure.

We may owe today’s Valentine’s Day to Geoffrey Chaucer who was known for taking liberties with history, by placing his characters into fictitious historical contexts which he purported to be real. There is no record of any romantic celebration on this day until the publication of one of  “Parliament of Foules,” in 1375 where he mentions a tradition of courtly love that is celebrated with a feast of St. Valentine. The poem refers to February 14 as the day when birds (and humans) join together to find a mate. When Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” he may well have invented the holiday we know today.

It was not until the 17th Century, however, that Great Britain, began to celebrate Valentine’s Day. In the 1850s it was customary for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small gifts of affection or handwritten notes. By the early 1900s, due to readily available and improved printing technology, pre-printed cards began replacing the handwritten letter.  In America, in the mid 1800s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines and she became known as the “Mother of the Valentine.” Her creations were quite elaborate, made with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.”

Following, we’ve hand picked some fun gifts, a bit more elaborate than the “scraps” that are a bit out of the proverbial Valentine Box.

For the entertainer and cocktail enthusiast, these beautiful agate coasters will add a festive flair to any table. Visit West Elm for more information.

I adore SMEG appliances for their beautiful and streamlined look. This Italian brand is revered for its retro and durable kitchen appliances. Featuring an energy-efficient design, this mixer is both fun to use and easy on the eyes and makes a perfect, unique gift for the chef or baking enthusiast. This could very well be the Valentine gift that keeps on giving!

We recognize the fact that not everyone is handy in the kitchen. For that reason may we suggest, the Laduree macaron? Perhaps the macaron is not quite your thing, well Maison Laduree offers other pastries, chocolates as well as candles and home fragrances. And they ship! Hurry, to allow plenty of time for delivery!

For the little Valentines in your life. Your children and grandchildren will delight in this adorable petite wooden dessert tower. And the best part is that they can have their cake and (pretend to) eat it too… even right before bedtime! Made by Hape toys, this can be ordered through Barney’s New York.

Earplugs sold separately!  We’re enamored with this musical toy set from Plan toys for the little musician in your life. Also from Barney’s.  In fact, we’re loving all the children’s toys and gifts so much we’ve forgotten that FAO Schwarz has closed their doors.

For tired mothers everywhere, whether you’re traveling or not, we know that there’s no gift like the gift of sleep. Husbands, take note. After you gift this delightful sleep mask and take the kids to the museum, or better yet, run them ragged on the playground, your wife will be so eternally grateful that I almost guarantee you a perfect Valentine’s Day night. (Wink-wink!)

Take Note! For the writer, notebook collector, consummate note taker, or perpetual planner, Smythson notebooks and writing instruments are elegant, well made and dress up any workspace or handbag.

Pardon me, have you got the time? For the aesthete  and electronics lover, Hermes has joined forces with Apple perfectly marrying the meticulous art and craft of yesterday with the technology of today. (Other colors available)

Watch your step! Calorie-free.The best part about eye candy is that it will never expand your waistline! We think these Crimson Manolo Blahnik Hangisi Crystal-Buckle Satin Flats are positively delicious! Available at Neiman Marcus.

Ticket to Ride. For the fashionable, whimsical car lover in your life We happen to adore these red hot Jan Leslie Fast Car Cufflinks also available at Neiman Markus.

Available in a wide range of colors, this “bright and cheery” version is perfect for the stylish entertainer with a bold personality. Handmade, these wonderful, whimsical candelabras, classique (their first love) and Moderne (inspired by the elegance of 1920s flappers and the spike of a woman’s high-heel shoe) are hand finished by Dunes & Duchess Stacy Kunstel and Michael Partenio. Do yourself a tremendous favor by visiting their website.

We hope these ideas have inspired you, and wish you all the most wonderful Valentine’s Day!

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6 thoughts on “Valentines: Fun Facts, Gift Guide and Brief History

  1. This is an awesome article: love the history, gift suggestions!
    I might add a romantic suggestion for a gift, a last minute trip to Paris.

    1. What I wouldn’t give to be going to Paris for the 14th! Will you be there?
      How’s life and when are you coming “home?”

  2. I want to Frame this Post and give it to my daughter who’s birthday is Valentine’s Day.
    Enjoyed the “Facts”, I have to wonder what is the chance of a girl celebrating her birthday on Feb 14th?
    Your so much Fun, there’s 12 days left please give us more!

    1. What a lucky daughter! And I believe you also saw my earlier post on a valentine’s party?
      Lots of ideas and tips there, too. Happy Birthday to your daughter.

    1. We’re all in agreement on that! Such a great opportunity to entertain I couldn’t resist…of course, I never can.

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