Happy Valentine’s Day from your friends at Chicago Public Library!
From the romantic to the rapturous, our St. Valentine’s stockpile runs deep. Where else can you find Charlie Brown right next to the Massacre? Browse CPL’s selection of related books, movies & more!
And for our trivia hungry friends keen to uncover customs of Feb. 14th, we’ve found five fun morsels of V-Day knowledge:
1.) Why do we eat chocolate on Valentine’s Day?
We’ve all heard that chocolate is an aphrodisiac and, while that may be true, it’s got nothing to do with today’s tradition. In the days of olde, chocolate was believed to inspire love. More specifically, in medieval times, women would eat sweets (primarily chocolate) before bed on St. Valentine’s Eve. Chocolate was intended to inspire desirous dreams, in which they would forsee their future spouse.
2.) So, who decided that we’d give chocolate in a heart-shaped box?
Richard Cadbury, son of the founder of the Cadbury Chocolate Co., was a bit of a Valentine visionary in the mid-1800s. By cashing in on his Dad’s creation, Richard was the first man to “market” the holiday by packaging chocolate in a box shaped like a heart. He was inspired by doctors of the era who would regularly prescribe chocolate to patients suffering from heartbreak.
3.) What’s up with Cupid?
Apparently, we’ve got the little fella all wrong. Cupid was actually a demigod in Roman mythology; the son of Venus, goddess of beauty and love. Over time, Cupid’s bloodline combined with Christianity and — presto! He was reduced to a cherub in the choirs of angels. So today, when you see that chubby baby with a bow ‘n arrow and impossibly tiny wings, know that he’s merely caricature of his former Cupid self.
4.) Who gave the first Valentine’s Day card?
In 1840, Esther Howland of Massachusetts offered a homemade romantic reminder that would eventually earn her the nickname, “the Mother of the American Valentine.” In fact, Esther’s gestures were so popular that she developed a successful “Valentine’s” business where she mass produced greetings made of lace, paper and floral décor.
5.) And the red roses?
We assumed this one was a no-brainer; red is the common color of love and roses. Makes sense, right? Sure, but it’s got nothing to do with tradition. Turns out that the red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, Roman goddess of love and Cupid’s Mom.
So, there ya go. Surprise your sweetie with a box of chocolates, a dozen roses, a Cupid-stamped card and, now, the real story behind them all.