With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, sweethearts are flocking to jewelry stores and florist shops to find the perfect gift for their significant other. Greeting cards adorned with ribbon and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are currently in high demand, but have you ever pondered the origin of the tokens that have come to represent this holiday? Join The StickerTalk as we investigate some symbols of the season!

The heart shape, considered by many to be the primary symbol of Valentine’s Day, did not represent love until the Middle Ages. Prior to the 1400s, hearts were merely decorative symbols. This, however, changed as popular culture became intrigued by the idea of romantic love. Because the people of this era believed that the heart controlled emotions, especially love, the heart shape soon became representative of romance. While an intact human heart does not look quite like the heart shape associated with Valentine’s Day, it does resemble the shape of a bird or reptile’s heart, animals that were commonly dissected for anatomical research during the medieval period.

Many more of our favorite Valentine’s Day traditions come from the Middle Ages. For example, the ribbons commonly featured on Valentine’s Day cards and décor first became associated with romance at medieval tournaments when young ladies would gift knights with ribbon for good luck prior to competition.

Pieces of ribbon may no longer be a popular gift to send an admirer, but flowers have never faded out of style. Red roses are the most popular flower gifted on Valentine’s Day. Said to represent romance, the red rose was the favored flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Unsurprisingly, Valentine’s Day is the busiest day of the year for florists with red roses accounting for over half of all holiday-related sales.

While some daydream of the perfect bouquet, others crave something a little sweeter on Valentine’s Day. A survey completed by the National Confectioners Association suggests that the majority of both men and women would rather receive candy from their valentine than flowers. The National Confectioners Association also states that the most popular candy for Valentine’s Day is overwhelmingly chocolate, so it should come as no surprise that the box of chocolates has become synonymous with the holiday. Marketing researchers have found that the most popular flavor in assorted box of chocolates is caramel with coconut chocolates finding the least amount of favor in the eyes of the average consumer.

Valentines, of course, are another staple of the season. Historians believe that the first valentine was sent in ancient Rome by Saint Valentine himself. Saint Valentine was a priest during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II. According to tradition, Saint Valentine defied the emperor’s ban on marriages by secretly conducting weddings. After his illegal activities were discovered, the priest was jailed and sentenced to death. A day before his execution, Saint Valentine sent a card to his sweetheart signed “your Valentine.” Valentines were not commercially produced in the United States until the 1850s when Esther Howland introduced her intricately designed cards to the American market. At the peak of their popularity, these cards earned Howland roughly $100,000 per year, the equivalent of a $3 million dollar yearly income today.

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