Ahhh February 14th, the day to express love to your sweetie, better-half, honey, shmoopy, snookums, pumpkin, sugar muffin, or boo boo,. We'll buy gifts, pop champagne, and plan romantic dinners with reckless abandon but how many of us know the real story of Valentine’s Day, and the magnitude of the commercial side of the holiday?
The origins of the holiday are shrouded in rumor and mystery, at times both attributed to ancient Christian and Roman traditions. In fact, the Catholic Church has at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were doomed to become martyrs.
One story attributes the holiday’s namesake to a priest named Valentine in 3rd century Rome. The Roman Emperor, Claudius II, reasoned that single men with no attachments made better soldiers so he outlawed marriage for all young men. Valentine disagreed with the edict out of sentiment for young love so he kept performing marriages secretly. But when he was discovered, Claudius had him killed.
Another version tells of a Valentine put to death for helping persecuted Christians escape Roman prisons, where they beaten horribly and tortured. Once he was apprehended, Valentine was put in prison, himself, where he fell in love with a girl who was the jailor’s daughter and she visited him there. Before his execution, he sent her a love letter signed, “From your Valentine,” coining the expression we still use today. With this reputation for unrequited romance, Valentine became one of the most popular saints in England and France during the Middle Ages, where they also thought it was the first day birds mated. But most likely, February 14th was probably the day Valentine was either buried or killed around 270 A.D.
A third tale of Valentine’s Day is even darker, as some believe that the Christian church appointed a day for St. Valentine’s feast in the middle of February to dissuade people from instead celebrating the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, a fertility festival on February 15th. It was a dedication to Faunus, Roman god of agriculture and Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.
The order of Luperci, a group of Roman priests, met at the sacred cave where Romulus and Remus were raised as infants by a Lupa, or she-wolf. During this pagan celebration a goat was sacrificed for fertility and a dog for purification. The goat’s hide was cut into strips and dipped into the sacrificial blood and the priests walked around the streets, anointing women and the agricultural fields with blood, which was believed to ensure fertility and bounty for both in the coming year. After that all of the women in the city would place their names in a big urn and any unmarried men of age would reach in chose a women, who he’d be paired with for the upcoming year, hopefully culminating in marriage. (Honestly, so far it just sounds like your average Mötley Crüe concert.)
As the religion of Christianity spread around the lands, Lupercalia was outlawed as a pagan holiday by the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius also declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day, instead. It wasn’t until many centuries later that the holiday became a day dedicated to love. Around 1400, written Valentine’s began to appear and the oldest existing evidence is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. In this country Valentine’s Day cards and gifts took place as early as 1700 but it was later that Esther A. Howland, called the “Mother of the Valentine” brought it mainstream and established many of our traditions as she adorned cards and handmade romantic gifts with lace, ribbons, pictures and plenty of red.
Valentine’s Day is now celebrated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
Now that we know some of the sordid history, let’s look at the how we celebrate the day of love in modern times, and the titanic commercial implications.
We spend about $20 billion dollars each Valentine’s Day
According to Shopzilla, 75% of gift givers just “wing it” when it comes to Valentine’s Day gifts.
The average person spends $126.03, while the average woman plans to spend $85.76 and the average man $168.74 this Vanetines Day.
36% of women will purchase flowers for their spouse.
50% of women will give a gift of chocolate to a guy.
Spouses plan on spending $74.12 each this Valentine's Day.
71% of men will purchase flowers for their spouse. (You other 29% are in TROUBLE!)
Each consumer plans to spend $25.25 on children, parents or other family members, $6.92 on friends, and $4.52 on pets.
Yes, pets! Interestingly enough, we’ll spend more than $722 million on furry friends every February 14th! That takes 'Crazy Cat Lady' to a whole new level!
To research and purchase gifts – 40% will use their smartphone, 53.8% will use their tablet.
Who do we buy Valentine's Day gifts for?
Romantic partners 56%
Where will people buy their V-day gifts?
37% go to a discount store, 33.6% department store, 20.2% specialty store, 19.3% online retailer, 17.8% to a floral shop, and 10.6% to a jewelry store.
For the fresh flower industry, 40% of their holiday dollar volume occurs on Feb. 14, up to $1.8 billion.
There will be 36 million heart shaped chocolate boxes sold for $1.5 billion.
18.9% of people plan on buying jewelry at $4.1 billion.
35.6% go out to a romantic dinner that night and spend a total of $9.6 billion.
Greeting cards count on that day to sell 150 million products for $1.1 billion in sales.
$1.2 billion is spent on clothing/lingerie.
Valentine's Day is the most popular day of the year for marriage proposals.
So don’t wait for the last minute to buy that gift for your spouse or loved ones this Valentine's Day and remember: it’s the thought that counts – not how much you spend...but you better buy a card, flowers, chocolate, and some jewelry just in case!