Anthropologist Helen Fisher credits love on dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, and serotonin, working in concert in our brains and leaving us smitten. It’s chemistry at its best, and we set aside one day every year to celebrate that complex interplay—and we’ve been doing it down through the ages.
Legends abound about the origins of this loving day, dating all the way back to a priest named Valentine who lived during the reign of Roman emperor Claudius II, 268 to 270 A.D. and was put to death for disobeying the law by secretly marrying young couples. Meanwhile, ancient cultures believed that the heart is the home of the human soul and the source of all our emotions, with red being the color of romance.
Couple all that with the fact that, during the Middle Ages in France and England, February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, and you get the idea . . . Bottom line: nowadays, it’s big-time hearts and flowers on Valentine’s Day. Just look at these latest yearly facts:
- Approximately 61.8% of us celebrate the occasion
- On average, $13.19 billion is spent.
- Each of us spends, on average, $116.21.
- About $367 million is spent on our pets.
- Some 180 million cards are exchanged.
- About 72 million cards are purchased by parents.
- About 220,000 proposals are made.
- Approximately 11,000 children are conceived.
And where do all our Valentine dollars go?
- Candy: 47.5%
- Flowers: 34.3%
- Cards: 52.1%
- Jewelry: 17.3%
- Dining: 34.6%
- Clothes: 14.4%
- Gift Cards: 12.6%
- Other: 11.2%
As for all that candy we buy? Along with chocolates, everyone goes for those Conversation Candy Hearts. The New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) began making candy adorned with messages way back in 1860; these ultimately morphed into the ones we all know and love today in 1902 and are updated every year.
And have no doubt: kids get into the spirit of Valentine’s Day, too, devouring handfuls of those candy hearts and swapping cards with their friends. But then you can keep the fun going for them by heading over to the Elmwood Park Zoo on Saturday, February 16. Starting at 11 a.m. and running until 2 o’clock, they’ll be invited to make special Valentine crafts “to excite the senses” of some of the birds and animals who make the zoo their home. At 11:30 that morning in the Canopy Gardens Hall, they’ll also be treated to a live animal show, followed by a dance party just for them thanks to DJ A-Run. Good eats will be on hand, too, and it’s all free with regular zoo admission.
Meanwhile, you can get ready for spring and help the zoo at the same time by ordering bulbs online during its Flower Power Fundraiser which runs until April 1. Among the choices: dahlias, freesias, tiger lilies, and anemones. Best of all, spend $40 or more and receive 10 free Black Surprise gladiolas for free!
So there you go. However you choose to celebrate those swirling chemicals, here’s to a happy and well-shared Valentine’s Day. As Margaret Walker noted, “Love stretches your heart and makes you big inside.” May it be so for you, too.