Friends and loved ones have exchanged tokens of affection on St. Valentine’s Day for centuries. Over the years, what originated as a humble holiday celebrating love turned into a billion-dollar industry and one of the biggest gift-giving days of the year.
Here are some interesting facts about the romantic holiday celebrated with candy, cards, flowers and marriage:
♥ Esther Howland, often referred to as the Mother of the American Valentine, propelled Valentine greeting cards into an industry when she began making and selling cards in the 1840s and ’50s in her family’s book and stationery store in Worcester, Mass.
♥ Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas as the most popular occasion to send greeting cards.
♥ About 145 million Valentine cards, excluding classroom valentines, are purchased annually, the U.S. Greeting Card Association reports.
♥ Women purchase an estimated 80 percent of all greeting cards.
♥ Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, sold only between New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day, are so popular that Revere, Mass.-based NECCO manufactures 8 billion of them year-round.
♥ The average American consumes chocolate candy and confections about 107 times a year, according to the National Confectioners Association, which predicts Valentine’s Day 2013 candy sales will total $1 billion. About 71 percent of those sales will be chocolate.
♥ Flowers became the preeminent gift for Valentine’s Day during World War II, when sugar—and candy—were rationed.
♥ Nearly 70 percent of all roses purchased for Valentine’s Day are red, according to a 2004 poll by the Society of American Florists. However, 62 percent of women surveyed by the organization prefer softer hues such as yellow, pink, peach and white.
♥ About 29 percent of all fresh flowers sold in the United States are grown domestically. California leads the nation, producing 77 percent of all domestically grown flowers.
♥ In Las Vegas, Nev., the self-proclaimed Wedding Capital of the World, an average of 328 weddings take place every day, with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve being the two most popular dates.
Each year since 1947, the U.S. Post Office in Loveland, Colo., has created a unique cancellation stamp to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Volunteers help postal employees postmark more than 300,000 Valentines mailed from Loveland each year. The greetings are sent to more than 100 countries around the world and all 50 states.