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Can't Buy Me Love?

How Canadians use more cold cash on Feb 14th. And get it wrong.

Bryan Zandberg 13 Feb

Bryan Zandberg is on staff on The Tyee.

This Tyee series shares with you the research conducted by the Angus Reid Global Monitor, the Vancouver-based leaders in public opinion analysis. TrendWatch columns offer quick, concise context for developing stories in BC and beyond.

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.

Who celebrates:

What they give and receive:

Whom they give to:

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