The History and Business of Valentine’s Day

The History and Business of Valentine’s Day

We will spend $27.4 billion, up 32% from 2019’s record of $20.7 billion

When we were in elementary school, most of us have fond memories of receiving cards and candy on every February 14th. We would bring a decorated shoe-box to school and by the end of the day, it would be filled with sweet notes from our classmates and lots of candy. But how many of us knew then, or know now, the history of Valentine’s Day? Or how big Valentine’s Day business really is? Let’s explore.

A Muddled History of Valentine’s Day

The history of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery – and some would say its origins are anything but romantic. But most historians agree that today’s holiday can trace its roots through both Christian and Roman history.

Many historians suggest that the ancient Romans are responsible for our modern Valentine’s Day because Emperor Claudius II executed two men – both happened to be named Valentine – on February 14thof different years in the 3rd century.

Legend suggests that one of the Valentines, a priest, performed marriages in secret despite the fact Claudius had outlawed marriage for young men because he decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives. When Claudius discovered that Valentine was performing marriages, he was put to death.

Other historians suggest that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February to “Christianize” celebration of Lupercalia, which was a fertility festival – as well as a pagan one – dedicated to the Roman god of Agriculture, Faunus.

The Business of Valentine’s Day

No matter your historical perspective, no one can argue that in 1913, Valentine’s Day forever changed when a Kansas City-based firm named Hallmark Cards began mass-producing Valentine’s Day cards.

And today, Valentine’s Day is a huge business. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation:

  • Consumers in the U.S. will spend an estimated $27.4 billion on gifts for Valentine’s Day, up from $20.7 billion the previous year
  • Consumers said they plan to spend an average of over $196, up over 21% from the previous year
  • Consumers say they will spend an average $30.19 on family members other than spouses, up slightly from $29.87 last year; $14.69 on friends, up from $9.78; $14.45 on children’s classmates and teachers, up from $8.63; and $12.96 on co-workers, up from $7.78
  • Twenty-seven percent say they will buy Valentine’s gifts for their pets, the highest figure in the history of the survey

Shoppers plan to spend:

  • $5.8 billion on jewelry
  • $4.3 billion on an evening out
  • $2.9 billion on clothing
  • $2.4 billion on candy
  • $2.3 billion on flowers
  • $2 billion on gift cards
  • $1.3 billion on greeting cards

Valentine’s Day & Financial Planning

So, you’re probably wondering, “what does Valentine’s Day have to do with financial planning?”

Well, a financial advisor could suggest that the amount of money we spend each Valentine’s Day is reflective of the overall economy, much like Black Friday signifies the health of the upcoming shopping season.

Or a financial advisor could suggest that the $27.4 billion is a big part of our consumer spending, which makes up 2/3 of our GDP (but remember U.S. GDP is about $19 trillion).

But truthfully, Valentine’s Day really has nothing to do with financial planning at all.

Happy Valentines Day!

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