Esther Howland, the woman who produced the first commercial American valentines in the 1840s, sold a then mind-boggling $5,000 in cards during her first year of business. The valentine industry in the United States has been booming ever since. Today, over 1 billion valentine cards are sent in this country each year -- second in number only to Christmas cards, according to the Greeting Card Association. (The happy day is also celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.)
Who are the lucky recipients of all these cards? Experts say parents are the most popular recipients of seasonal cards, receiving about one out every five. Teachers, children, wives and sweethearts are also at the top of the list. Around 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to cards, there are millions of boxes of chocolates and bouquets of roses purchased (mostly by men) for the February 14 holiday.
When did the Valentine's Day frenzy begin? As is true of much of history, scholars tell slightly different versions of the history of this popular holiday. In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll look at that history, with its Roman and Christian roots, as well as holiday traditions that have developed over the years. We'll also check out some old valentines and some new ones. Read on -- you're sure to find a terrific way to tell your loved ones how you feel this Valentine's Day!