Valentine's Day is predictable, right? Roses, chocolates, a cheesy Hallmark card and maybe a nice dinner. No big surprises here.
Not quite. There's actually much more to this lovey-dovey holiday than hugs and kisses. Here are five interesting things you may not have known about the real Valentine's Day:
1. Valentine was the patron saint of epilepsy and plague
No one knows for sure who the original Valentine was (there were up to ten men who were known as Saint Valentine), but the traditional figure was a Christian martyr who became the Catholic Church's patron saint of love, happy marriages and engaged couples, but also of epilepsy, plague, fainting and bee keepers.
2. Valentine's Day should be celebrated in May, not February
The first recorded association of Valentine's Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules, a 1382 poem by Geoffrey Chaucer. He wrote:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
("For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.")
Chaucer wrote the poem to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. The only problem is that birds don't mate in mid-February. At least one expert claims that Chaucer may have been referring to May 2, the celebration of Valentine of Genoa.
3. The first Valentine's Day keepsake was a severed head
Sort of. Saint Valentine's actual head was preserved in the now-defunct abbey of New Minster in England. But there's no evidence that Saint Valentine was very popular before Chaucer's poem. Saint Valentine's celebration didn't differ from the celebrations of many other saints, and no church was ever dedicated to him (notwithstanding the head).
4. Teachers are more loved than spouses
In the U.S., teachers receive the most valentines, followed by children, mothers, wives and sweethearts.
5. Utah Utes should avoid Saudi Arabia on Valentine's Day
In Saudi Arabia, religious police have regularly banned the sale of Valentine's Day products, telling shops to remove all red items. In 2008, this ban created a black market of roses and wrapping paper. Note to Utah Utes: avoid Saudi Arabia on February 14. No red allowed!
6. Most women wouldn't forgive a man who forgot Valentine's Day
Feel free to forget birthdays. But according to one poll, 53% of women in America would dump their boyfriends if they didn't get them anything for Valentine's Day. Ouch.
7. In some places, men receive Valentine's Day gifts, not women
In Japan, women are expected to give chocolate and other gifts to men on Valentine's Day. However, polls in the United States show that more than one-third of men would prefer not receiving a gift on Valentine's Day. (Less than 20% of women feel the same way.)
8. Your neighbor's pet may get more attention this Valentine's Day than you
According to one study, more than nine million pet owners buy gifts for their pets on Valentine's Day.
Regardless of the trivia and polls and weird history behind Valentine's Day, let's just agree that it's a fun holiday that serves as an additinal reminder to celebrate the ones we love. Who cares if the real Valentine was the patron saint of plague. Bring on the mushy greeting cards!