Opinions differ as to who was the original Valentine, but the most popular theory is that he was a clergyman who was executed for secretly marrying couples in ancient Rome.
In A.D. 496, Pope Gelasius I declared Feb. 14 as Valentine’s Day. Esther Howland, a native of Massachusetts, is given credit for selling the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards in the 1840s.
U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $137, down from last year’s record-high $147, according to a survey carried out for the National Retail Federation. Total spending is expected to reach $18.2 billion, down from $19.7 billion last year, which was also a record.
Starting at an average $120 for a total of $16.9 billion in 2007, Valentine’s spending grew most years over the past decade before hitting last year’s record. But the number of people surveyed who plan to celebrate the holiday has dropped by nearly 10 percent over the same period from 63 percent in 2007 to 54 percent this year.
The survey for 2017 found consumers plan to spend an average $85 on their significant other/spouse, $27 on other family members such as children or parents, $7 on children’s classmates/teachers, $7 on friends, $4 on co-workers, and $4 on pets.
Consumers plan to spend $4.3 billion on jewelry, reported by 19 percent of shoppers in the survey; $3.8 billion on an evening out, 37 percent; $2 billion on flowers, 35 percent; $1.9 billion on clothing, 19 percent; $1.7 billion on candy, 50 percent; $1.4 billion on gift cards/gift certificates, 16 percent; and $1 billion on greeting cards, 47 percent.
Also popular this year are “gifts of experience” such as tickets to a concert or sporting event, a gym membership, or an outdoor adventure. While 40 percent of consumers want an experience gift, only 24 percent plan to give one, according to the survey.
About 27 percent of consumers surveyed plan to shop online.
Facts and figures on people
The U.S. Census Bureau offers the following information for Valentine’s Day 2017:
29.7 and 27.8 years
Median age for a first marriage in 2015 for men and women, respectively.
The overall percentage of people 15 and older who reported being married.
The rate of marriages per 1,000 people performed in Nevada during 2014. So many couples tie the knot in the Silver State that it ranked No. 1 nationally in marriage rates. Hawaii ranked second with a marriage rate of 17.7.
The number of marriages that took place in the United States, excluding Georgia, in 2014. That’s about 5,800 a day.
Two or more marriages
Among people 15 and older who have been married, the percentage of men and women who have been married twice as of 2015. About 5.4 have married three or more times. By comparison, 75.5 percent of people who have ever been married have made only one trip down the aisle.