Valentine’s Day is named after two Christian martyrs who, in fact, had nothing whatsoever to do with romance.
In France, in the middle ages -- when courtly love was invented -- people concocted stories about the martyrs for Saint Valentine’s Day, February 14th, which became the day the courts heard cases involving love contracts, betrayals and violence against women. In time, that day somehow also became a celebration of love and romance.
The tradition turned into big business when transposed to North America. In 1847, Esther Howland, whose father owned a stationary company in Massachusetts, made the first mass-produced “valentines” out of embossed paper lace. These days, the Greeting Card Association estimates that 1.8 billion valentines are sent each year worldwide (not including packaged children’s valentines in classrooms), making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas.
And the CBC reports that the popularity of gift cards is still rising.
Add that to the fact that the diamond industry began to promote the occasion as the time to give jewelry in the 1980s, and it’s clear the celebrations have become highly commercialized.
So commercialized indeed that according to a new national study conducted by Angus Reid, 82% of Canadians said they intend to celebrate the day by giving gifts.
By the same token, the survey found that well-intentioned arrows of cupids across Canada often miss their mark: between what women want and what men are thinking of giving there was a significant gap. But that won’t slow the spending.
For an idea of what Canadians spend on Valentine’s, last year, the average cowpoke in Calgary plunked down $150. Another poll puts the national average at $93.20. In both cases, women expect to pay about half.
The most popular gift is not diamonds, but restaurant meals at 39%, followed by chocolates and candy at 35% and flowers at 23%.
And gender affects all results. 53% of men plan to give restaurant meals while only 26% of women do. Same with flowers: 40% of men plan to give them, only 6% of women do. And while only 12% of men don’t plan to give gifts, 23% of women said they didn’t intend to.
- 82% of Canadians generally
- 81% of British Columbians
- 90% of Atlantic Canadians
What they give and receive:
- 40% of men will give flowers, 15% of women want flowers
- 31% of men are thinking of giving candy, 9% of women want candy
- 12% of men will not be giving presents, 23% of women will not be giving presents
- 29% of women most want restaurant meals, 17% want spa visits, 15% want flowers
- 43% of Canadians think gift cards are lazy and impersonal
Whom they give to:
- 54% plan to give gifts to spouses, 23% to their child(ren), 14% to parent(s), 12% to girlfriend / boyfriend, 5% to other adult relatives, 0% to teachers (7% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan plan to give gifts to teachers) 2% to colleagues, 2% to grandparents.
Related Tyee stories: