The History of Valentine's Day (and Kissing)
Instead of whispering sweet nothings, impress your sweetheart with these Valentine’s Day facts.
- No one knows the real story behind Saint Valentine (at least three different saints named Valentine are recognized by the Roman Catholic church), but one legend claims that he secretly married young couples against the orders of an emperor who had banned marriage because he believed single men made better soldiers.
- Today’s tradition of trading love notes on February 14 became popular in England in the 17th century.
- The first box of chocolates was introduced by Richard Cadbury in 1868.
- The oldest known valentine card dates back to the 1400s. Charles, duke of Orleans, sent it to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
- So-called vinegar valentines, which carried insults like “Ugly, Fat, and Forty,” were popular in the 19th century. They were sent anonymously on the 14th.
- “Be Mine,” one of the original messages on Necco’s Sweethearts candies when they debuted, still appears every year. Recent additions? “IM Me” and “Go Girl.”
But there’s plenty you may still not know about philematology, or the science of snogging (seriously, it has a name). So wrap your orbicularis oris muscles (lips) around these tidbits of trivia, and next time you greet your valentine, you can kiss and tell.
- Some anthropologists believe that kissing originated with early Homo sapiens passing food to their babies mouth to mouth. As humans developed, the mouth-to-mouth feeding stopped, but the learned behavior of kissing remained.
- The first on-screen kiss was between John C. Rice and May Irwin in the 1896 movie appropriately titled The Kiss.
- Birds and bees may not be able to kiss, but bonobo apes do. The oft-studied primates, who are closely connected to humans, love to lay one on each other after a fight, to form social bonds, or―arguably the best reason―just because.
- As a prelude to KISS, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley were known as Wicked Lester. In 1973 Stanley had the idea to change the band’s name to KISS, while Frehley came up with the iconic design for the KISS logo.
- They may not have been sitting in a tree, but British couple James Belshaw and Sophia Severin achieved a record for k-i-s-s-i-n-g back in 2005, when they smooched for 31 hours, 30 minutes, and 30 seconds. No word on whether it led to love, marriage, or a baby in a carriage.