Cupid's got his arrows aimed at billions of lovers as we celebrate Valentine's Day. And these fun facts about the world's most romantic holiday are just the fix for nursing a broken heart or distracting one that's aflutter. Whether you'll be kicking back with all your single ladies or carousing with your Prince Charming, here's to a happy holiday of love.
Most historians link the lover's holiday to an annual celebration in Rome that occurred every Feb. 15. During the boisterous bonanza, men stripped naked and spanked young maidens with animal-skin whips in an effort to increase fertility. While tame in comparison, modern Valentine's Day festivities are observed today in Mexico, Canada, France, Australia and the U.K., in addition to here in the U.S.
While history buffs don't unanimously agree on who the original Valentine was, the most popular suspect is a clergyman in ancient Rome. When the emperor outlawed marriage during wartime (because he believed single men made better soldiers), Bishop Valentine performed secret wedding ceremonies. It wasn't until 496 A.D., over 200 years after the bishop's death, that Pope Gelasius I officially declared Feb. 14 as Saint Valentine's Day.
Coming to America
While Valentine greetings have been exchanged since the Middle Ages in Europe, the tradition didn't reach the United States until the 19th century. According to theGreeting Card Association, the person credited with starting it in the U.S. is Esther Howland, an American printer and artist, who published and sold the first cards on Valentine's Day in 1850.
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