Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the second highest grossing holiday of the sales year—behind Santa but well ahead of Mom. (Sorry, Mom.) In fact, this year, Americans will pump approximately $19 billion into our economy in the name of everyone’s favorite holy man, St. Valentine. You remember him, right? No?
Maybe that’s because historians are unsure whether there was one or two (or more) St. Valentines, but pretty sure that at least one of them was martyred on February 14. And so, in the third century, the Catholic Church made it official by establishing this date as the annual commemoration of St. Valentine(s). This designation would remain in place until 1969, when the Catholic Church removed the holiday from its calendar, citing “not enough information.”
The jury is still out on whether this holiday originated in (or at least, incorporated) ancient pagan rituals. In this case, the feast in question is Lupercalia (February 13-15), a Roman celebration where drunk, naked men sacrificed goats and dogs, then used strips of animal hides to whip girls and young women, bestowing fertility upon them for the coming year.
Regardless, highly romantic themes such as this would persist across generations, peaking in the Middle Ages, when writers like Chaucer dramatized the life of St. Valentine, and artists like Botticelli depicted the angel Cupid as a chubby, love-obsessed, flying man-child—armed with a bow and arrow.
Fast forward to the early 1900s, when the stage was all but set for future tycoons John Cadbury (of chocolate fame) and Joyce Clyde Hall (founder of Hallmark Cards) to begin marketing this dubious, sketchy, fictitious holiday to the masses. The result? A $19 billion love story, set in the year 2015.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
FUN VALENTINE FACTS
- The average American will spend $140 on gifts/dining/etc this holiday. Compare that to just $97.27 ten years ago, and we can all hope to spend $200 in 2025.
- Candy companies will produce about 8 billion of those adorable candy hearts with messages. Placed end to end, that’s enough to circle the globe 2.5 times.
- Americans will spend about $700 million on gifts for their PETS this year (with an average gift of $5). Not bad compared to the $3 they will spend on co-workers.
- Single men will outspend married men by 160%. Maybe that’s because 53% of single women “would dump their boyfriends if they don’t get a Valentine’s gift.”
- Condom sales spike by 20-30% in the period surrounding Valentine’s Day. Perhaps on a related note, more at-home pregnancy tests are sold during the month of March than any other month.