Valentine’s Day by the numbers

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950-1960

Valentine from the 1950s. Image via Wikipedia

Hearts, flowers, chocolates, and flying babies: it’s that time of year again. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14The date was declared Saint Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius I in the year 496, in honor of a priest who had been executed on February 14.  In the Catholic religion, Saint Valentine is the patron saint of love, young people, and happy marriage.  (Is there a different patron saint for unhappy marriage?)

In some countries, Valentine’s Day is considered a “day of love and friendship,” but in the United States, the emphasis is on love and romance. The word Valentine also refers to heart-shaped cards exchanged by couples on this day.

Have a look at some common Valentine’s Day traditions in the United States, with some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Flowers, cards and gifts
-Bouquets of flowers are a traditional Valentine’s Day gift, even though many parts of the U.S. are blanketed in snow at this time of year.

-In elementary schools, students exchange Valentine’s Day cards with their classmates.  Sometimes students make cards by hand, but normally they buy boxes of cards from the store.  Esther Howland, from the state of Massachusetts, is known as the first person to sell mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards in the 1840’s.

A bouquet of flowers.

Red, white, pink, and yellow roses. Image via Wikipedia

-In some schools, students buy flowers to give to classmates as a fundraiser.  Traditionally, white flowers mean friendship, pink indicate “a crush” and red symbolize love.

$80 is the price of 12 long-stemmed red roses from an online florist in the United States for Valentine’s Day.

18,509 was the number of florists in the United States in 2008.

$2.4 billion dollars was the amount of money spent on jewelery in the United States in February 2010.

$7 dollars is the price for a box of 32 classroom Valentine cards with envelopes included.

Conversation Hearts

Image by bethhaught via Flickr


-Chocolates and candy are traditional Valentine’s Day gifts.  “Conversation hearts,” small sugar hearts with messages in English, are very popular for Valentine’s Day.

24.3 pounds is the amount of candy per capita consumed by Americans in 2009.

Other traditions

$2.1 million is the number of marriages performed in the U.S. in 2009.

28.2 and 26.1 years were the average ages of men and women, respectively, on their first marriages.

54.1 was the percentage of adults in the United States who reported being married in 2009.

6% was the percentage of women in 2004 who had been married for at least 50 years.

Vocabulary for Valentine’s Day
secret admirer
“be mine”

Questions for conversation
Is Valentine’s Day celebrated where you live?
What traditions are popular on this day?
Do you think people should buy gifts to show love on Valentine’s Day?

And if you were thinking of getting somebody a gift, consult this infographic for its exact brillance or lameness:


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