What do Americans give their valentines?

Jasie Sharp, 10, ponders her Valentine’s Day cards at an elementary school party in Ventura, California. (© Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Each year on February 14, Americans, like many others around the world, celebrate love and friendship by exchanging cards, flowers, candy and other gifts.

Although the origins of Valentine’s Day are obscure, today it signifies both romantic and platonic love. Here are popular items Americans give to friends or lovers on Valentine’s Day:

Greeting cards

The exchange of written notes on Valentine’s Day began in the 15th century, with handmade valentine cards appearing in the 1700s. By the early 1800s, as the use of printing presses expanded, the United Kingdom produced commercial valentines, according to Time magazine.

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Historical Valentine’s Day cards by Esther Howland (Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society)

In the 1840s, the magazine reports, Esther Howland of Massachusetts came across valentines imported from England and thought she could make equally beautiful cards for less. Howland’s father, who owned a stationery business, helped her.

Howland’s artistic designs established commercial Valentine’s Day cards in the U.S. Today, Americans exchange 145 million valentines each year, according to the Greeting Card Association.

Flowers

On Valentine’s Day, Americans overwhelmingly choose to send roses, according to the Society of American Florists.

A worker packs roses to be shipped to the U.S. ahead of Valentine’s Day at Colibri Flowers in El Rosal, Colombia. (© Fernando Vergara/AP)

Red roses, signifying passion, are the top choice. Pink roses, representing gratitude and joy, are the next most popular choice.

Most flowers sold in the United States come from the Netherlands, Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya, according to The New York Times. The U.S. Census Bureau cited the value of imports of all bouquet-cut flowers in the United States at $203 million for February 2022.

Conversation hearts

In the U.S., conversation hearts are the most popular non-chocolate candy for valentines. The colorful candies can be traced to the invention of a cutting machine in the 1840s by a Boston pharmacist named Oliver Chase, according to the food-focused Allrecipes website. Chase first used his machine to make medicinal lozenges but later turned to making scalloped candies called conversation hearts or sweethearts.

Candy is prepared for packaging at the New England Confectionery Company in Revere, Massachusetts. (© Charles Krupa/AP)

In the 1860s, Chase‚Äôs brother Daniel developed a way to stamp words on the candies using red vegetable dye. By 1901, the candies took on their familiar heart shape, with messages such as ‚ÄúBe Mine‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúTrue Love.‚ÄĚ Spangler Candy, based in Ohio, acquired the rights to the candies in 2019.

Chocolate

Chocolate remains the most popular edible gift for Valentine’s Day in the United States.

A store employee holds a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates at Au Chocolat in Boston. (© Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald/Getty Images)

Taste of Home magazine says the top five brands purchased for Valentine’s Day in the U.S. are:

Lindt, headquartered in Switzerland under the name Lindt & Spr√ľngli.

Godiva, the Belgian gourmet chocolatier.

Ghirardelli, founded in California by an Italian immigrant, and now owned by Lindt & Spr√ľngli.

Hershey, an American brand based in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Dove, a Chicago-based chocolatier owned by Mars Incorporated.

Postage stamps

In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service began issuing love-themed postage stamps in time for Valentine‚Äôs Day. Pop artist Robert Indiana designed the first stamp in the series, which was fittingly released in Philadelphia, known as ‚Äúthe city of brotherly love.‚ÄĚ

The U.S. Postal Service issued two new ‚Äúlove‚ÄĚ stamps for 2023, one featuring a kitten and the other a puppy with their front paws resting atop a heart.

New ‚Äúlove‚ÄĚ stamps ‚ÄĒ featuring flowers, Victorian lace, cherubs, swans or candy hearts ‚ÄĒ are issued regularly, and while these stamps are still linked to Valentine‚Äôs Day, the Postal Service encourages customers to use them for other sentimental occasions too.

by Lauren Monsen

Published on 2023-02-09

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Originally posted as: What do Americans give their valentines? | ShareAmerica, made available by ShareAmerica under the terms of the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal license.


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