Ah, Valentine’s Day.
It all started innocently (if rather grotesquely) enough some 1,500 years ago in ancient Rome, and has since exploded into a $14 billion extravaganza of gushy cards, pricey dinners, flowers fresh from Ecuador, and virtually anything else retailers can shape into a heart (a Black and Decker power drill with heart-shaped bits?) – with overnight delivery for the neglectful. Some lovebirds may yet manage to find a smidgen of romance in the holiday, but more often than not, Cupid's mark is your wallet.
Here’s a sampling of facts about Valentine's Day, especially selected for those who resist the holiday's overt commercialism and are marshaling arguments for a boycott.
• Its history is steeped in goat flesh and blood. Valentine’s Day started as an ancient Roman fertility festival celebrated in the depths of winter. According to legend, boys would scurry through town with fistfuls of sacrificed goat flesh dipped in blood, which they slapped on women to "promote" fertility and secure partners. Be still, my heart.
• Wondering what your neighbor is spending on his Valentine? The average American is expected to spend $103 on gifts, meals, and entertainment. Of that total, spouses are spending $63.34 on each other, reports National Geographic. (That doesn't count the emergency valentine card from free print-your-own websites. If you got one of those, just know that the sender at least saved some money.)
• Americans consumed 8 billion conversation hearts last year, according to NECCO, the New England Confectionary Co. The conversation heart dates back to 1902, when they were also produced in shapes like postcards, baseballs, horseshoes, and watches. Today, the company produces hearts with 80 different sayings. Among them: "Tweet Me," "BFF," "LOL," "Glam," and "Ur Hot."
• He loves you, but he loves his dog more. One in 5 adults would rather spend Valentine’s Day with their pet than their partner, according to a recent poll. Reuters/Ipsos asked 24,000 people in 23 countries who they would rather spend the holiday with. At 49 percent, Turkish people were most likely to choose a pet over a partner, followed by Indians, Japanese, Chinese, and Americans. At only 10 percent choosing Fido over Francoise, the French were least likely to spend the holiday with a pet.
• Valentine's Day has a history of coercion. Hawaiians reportedly had to be coerced into ponying up annually for cards and flowers: Apparently, one condition of statehood was that Hawaii add St. Valentine’s Day to its holiday calendar. Previously, Cupid and his minions had not been a part of traditional island culture.
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