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Valentine's Day facts and superstitions

Every February 14th people around the world exchange gifts, chocolates and romantic greetings for a day set aside for lovers. Many traditions are followed, all in the name of St. Valentine. Still, people may not understand why such customs are upheld. Much of the history of Valentine's Day and St. Valentine himself is shrouded in mystery, and much of what's widely accepted is inaccurate. To set the record straight, here are some facts about the holiday.

• Valentine's Day is believed to have originated from a celebration in Rome during the fifth century. This celebration paid tribute to St. Valentine, a Catholic priest. Other historians surmise it was a way to "Christianize" the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, which was a fertility festival. Included in the traditions were boys and girls drawing names from a box and exchanging gifts.

• The Catholic Church acknowledges at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus.

• All of the stories surrounding St. Valentine — whether they are disputed or not — paint him as a sympathetic and heroic individual.

• Valentine's Day greetings have been popular from the Middle Ages onward, though they have been usually verbal in nature.

• The oldest known written valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.

• Valentine's Day is celebrated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.

• Valentine's Day and Mother's Day are the most popular holidays to give flowers.

• According to Hallmark, women purchase 85 percent of all valentines.

• According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion Valentine's Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas.

• Candy was among the earliest Valentine's Day gifts and remains a popular gift today.

• Some tales suggest that the type of bird a girl watches on Valentine's Day predicts her future husband. A bluebird indicates a happy man, while a sparrow indicates a poor man.

• In Medieval times, girls consumed unusual foods on Valentine's Day in the belief it would make them dream of their future husbands.

---Metro Creative Connection