Valentine’s Day History, Facts, and Stats: Let’s Un-Pak That

We often associate Valentine’s Day with roses, candy hearts, and romance. After digging a little deeper into its origins, we discovered some interesting info about Valentine’s Day and its evolution into a mind-blowing, multi-billion-dollar business. Without further ado, let's un-pak some Valentine’s Day fun facts!

Ancient Rome

Although it’s up for debate, many historians believe Valentine’s Day became an offshoot of Lupercalia, a pagan festival celebrated around February 15 to honor Lupercus, the god of fertility. The festival may go as far back as the 6th century B.C. However, we need to jump ahead in history a bit to learn where the holiday got its name.

Ancient Rome 

Rome, but less ancient

Historians believe there might have been multiple men named Valentine in ancient Rome who fell victim to the Emperor Claudius II. One story suggests that Valentine attempted to convert Claudius to Christianity, and spoiler alert: it didn’t go well. Before executing him, the emperor imprisoned Valentine for a year, during which time children are said to have passed notes and flowers (sound at all familiar?) through the barred windows of his cell. Among these children was the daughter of Valentine's jailer. The day before his February 14th death, Valentine supposedly wrote the young girl a note, signing it, “From your Valentine.”

Other stories theorize that during his reign, Claudius II had banned marriage in order to recruit soldiers for his Roman army more easily. But Valentine, ever the romantic, secretly performed marriages among Christians. His steadfast piety and insubordination against the marriage ban continued to enrage Claudius II, who ultimately ordered his execution on—you guessed it—February 14. The Catholic Church began celebrating St. Valentine’s feast day on February 14 in 498 A.D., and he is considered the patron saint of love and lovers.

heart valentine 

18th and 19th Centuries

Springing forward a few centuries, we start to see Valentine’s Day take on a more familiar form, and we primarily have Massachusetts businesswoman Esther Howland to thank. Starting at the very end of the 18th century, valentines were popular in Europe and imported to the U.S., but most Americans couldn’t afford them. When Esther received a valentine from one of her father’s business associates, she decided she could perfect the art, and so her entrepreneurial life began! She designed the cards, hired an assembly line of women, and became the first person to commercialize valentine greetings in the U.S., rightfully earning the title, “The Mother of the American Valentine.” We love female entrepreneurship!

heart candy valentine

19th and 20th Centuries

British company, Cadbury, launched a heart-shaped box of chocolate for Valentine’s Day, followed by Hershey's release of chocolate kisses in the early 1900s. So in spite of all the credit they get for Valentine’s Day, Hallmark didn’t start selling Valentine cards until 1913! Little by little, February 14 has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Flowers, jewelry, chocolate, and greeting cards are among the many gifts purchased for Valentine’s day to the tune of $25 + billion dollars in the United States, alone!


Valentine’s Day is Big Business in the U.S. Today

John Kiernan from WalletHub provides fascinating research into how Valentine’s Day expenditures will shake out this year. Get a load of these stats and facts:

  • $27.4 billion will be spent this year for Valentine’s Day, making it the 2nd most expensive holiday.
  • On average, men will spend 3 times more than women.
  • 45% of adults don’t plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.
  • 50% of singles are comfortable with their status.
  • 15% of Americans buy themselves a gift on Valentine’s Day.
  • 9 million marriage proposals will happen on Valentine’s Day.
  • $4.3 billion will be spent by couples who plan a night out together.
  • $2.4 billion will be spent on candy.
  • $5.8 billion will be spent on jewelry.
  • $2.3 billion will be spent on flowers and 30% of all flower sales happen around Valentine’s Day.
  • $2 billion will be spent on gift cards.
  • $1.3 billion will be spent on greeting cards.

piggy bank

What about Galentine’s Day? 

Galentine’s Day has become a real-life holiday thanks to the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation--more specifically, the show's lovable character Leslie Knope, played by the equally lovable Amy Poehler. Typically celebrated on February 13, Galentine’s Day is “only the best day of the year,” according to Leslie (and us at Happy Pak).

“Every February 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”

Galentine’s Day has actually gained traction in mainstream America as a celebrated holiday, demonstrating that this time of year is as much about our friendships as it is about our other relationships. 

So, this Galentine’s Day, we encourage you to follow Leslie’s advice and put your “hoes before bros. Uteruses before duderuses…Ovaries before brovaries” and “remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or, waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.” 

Galentine's Day
A real-life invite to a real-life Galentine's Day event
(Credit: the lovely Helen Dahlhauser)


If you’re looking for something fun and creative for your valentine or galentine with hassle-free shopping, Happy Pak’s got your back! We offer Valentine’s Day gifts for men, women, galentines, and college students under a $100, and we’re just a click away. Check them out here!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published