This Valentine’s Day, you might be hoping to receive a box of chocolates or a dozen roses. You might not expect to receive a cruel card that details your worst personality traits. But a couple hundred years ago, this kind of card was commonplace.
In the mid-19th century, people used the holiday as an opportunity to send a “Vinegar Valentine” to tell unwanted suitors that they weren’t interested and to get lost. These valentines were cheaply made and included a rude image and a short phrase that mocked the recipient and an aspect of their personality.
But these valentine’s weren’t just limited to rejecting romantic overtures. They were also sent to neighbors, friends, schoolteachers, coworkers or anyone else that you thought ill of. Vinegar Valentines were basically a way to troll people before the Internet existed. “Comic valentines,” including those harsh vinegar ones, made up half of all Valentine’s Day card sales in the mid-19th century.
So if you aren’t showered with enough attention or gifts this Valentine’s Day, you can at least be thankful that Vinegar Valentines aren’t popular anymore.
Below are some more fun facts about the holiday of love:
$146.84: Average amount Americans will spend on flowers, candy, apparel, jewelry and other gifts on Valentine’s Day, up from $142.31 last year.
$19.7 billion: Total amount that will be spent on Valentine’s Day gifts.
$1.7 billion: Amount that will be spent on candy.
$1.9 billion: Amount that will be spent on flowers.
$4.4 billion: Amount that will be spent on earrings, necklaces and other jewelry.
$681 million: Total that consumers will spend on their pets.
$1.2 million: Total that people will spend on salons and spas.
85: Percentage of men and women who say sex is an important part of Valentine’s Day.
40: Percentage of people who say they would hook up with someone just because it’s Valentine’s Day.
11,000: Average number of children who are conceived each year on Valentine’s Day.
8: Percentage of unmarried couples who are planning or expecting a marriage proposal this Valentine’s Day, according to an American Express survey.
220,000: Average number of proposals on Valentine’s Day each year.
53: Percentage of women who say they would end a relationship if their significant other forgot Valentine’s Day.
36 million: Number of heart-shaped chocolate boxes that will be sold.
3: Number of new chocolate-flavored drinks that Starbucks created for this year’s Valentine’s Day: the Molten Chocolate Latte, Molten Chocolate Frappuccino and Molten Hot Chocolate.
8 billion: Number of Sweethearts candies that are produced annually. Most are sold between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14.
1st: Rank of Valentine’s Day among holidays for fresh flower and plant purchases. Roughly 40 percent of all holiday spending on flowers is for Valentine’s Day.
24: Percentage of American adults who purchase flowers or plants as gifts for the holiday.
63: Percentage of people who purchase red roses, more than any other type of flower.
250 million: Estimated number of roses grown for Valentine’s Day.
15 percent: Percentage of American women who will send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day.
174,000: Gallons of sparkling wine that will be sold in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, costing about $8.6 million.
25: Percentage of people who dine out on Valentine’s Day, making it the second most popular dining holiday after Mother’s Day.
2: St. Valentines who might have inspired the holiday. One story from the 1400s describes Valentine as a priest who was beheaded for helping Christian couples wed. Another account says Valentine was the Bishop of Terni, who was also martyred.
1537: Year in which Henry VIII, the king of England, officially declared Feb. 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.
1849: Year in which Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts published the first Valentine’s Day card.
145 million: Valentine’s Day cards bought every year.
1913: Year that Hallmark first offered Valentine’s Day cards. The company began mass-producing them in 1916.
1,300: Number of different Valentine’s Day greeting cards Hallmark offers.
85: Percentage of Valentine’s Day cards purchased by women.
1,000: Letters that the Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare’s lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives each Valentine’s Day.