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Valentine's Day is one of those rare holidays that is enjoyed by almost everyone in the world. After all, what's not to like about a day when loved ones get to shower each other with cards, flowers, chocolates, and jewelry? This display of affection does come at a steep price — Almost $19 billion, and that number is just for the USA.
So how did this extravagant holiday begin? While there are numerous legends, the most popular one dates back to 270 AD. According to the folklore, Emperor Claudius II, the ruler of the Roman Empire did not approve of young men getting married before heading to war. He believed that single men made better soldiers because they were less distracted.
But a Roman clergyman named Valentine did not agree and helped many couples get married secretly. When the Emperor found out, he sentenced the Bishop to death. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter and just before he was executed on February 14, sent her a note signed — 'From Your Valentine.' In 496 AD Pope Gelasius set aside the day to honor St. Valentine, and a fun tradition was born!
The Pope, of course, was not the one who transformed it into a commercial holiday. That credit goes to Richard Cadbury, a member of the famous British chocolate company, and Massachusetts businesswoman Esther Howland. The former came up with the brilliant idea of selling bite-sized chocolates packaged in heart-shaped boxes while Howland popularized handmade lace paper Valentine cards that featured messages of love.
Candy and cards remain the biggest Valentine's Day gifts to this day. Americans spend over $1 billion USD on chocolate - most encased inside the 35 million heart-shaped boxes that are sold each year. Also popular are Sweethearts. According to the manufacturers a bulk of the 8 billion candy conversation hearts made annually, are sold between January 1 and February 14.
With over 145 million cards exchanged in the US and over a billion worldwide, Valentine's Day is one of the biggest moneymakers for greeting card companies. It is second only to Christmas when 2.6 billion cards are sold. It is no wonder that the holiday is sometimes referred to as a 'Hallmark Holiday.' Surprisingly, though, a majority of the cards are purchased for teachers and children!
Flowers are also very popular. About 51% of people, primarily men buy red roses for their loved ones. At inflated prices, this adds up to 1.9 billion USD! Almost 35% of Americans that celebrate the holiday treat their loved ones to a special meal. This 'splurge' costs an astounding $3.6 billion USD.
The romantic day is, of course, a favorite for wedding proposals. It is therefore not surprising to hear that about $4 billion USD is spent on gold, silver and diamond jewelry each year. Humans are not the only ones that get showered with love. One in five Americans also include pets in their celebration, dropping a cool $703 million USD! Who would have guessed that a simple love note would evolve into such an expensive affair?
Happy Valentine's Day!
Resources: wikipedia.org, nrf.com