Red hearts.

How much do Americans love their Valentines? Apparently, an estimated $27.4 billion worth.

This Valentine’s Day, Americans are expected to set another spending record — up a whopping 32% over last year. Consumers will plunk down an average of $196.31 on gifts such as jewelry, an evening out, clothing, candy, flowers, cards and spa days, according to the National Retail Federation.

About 55% of Americans expect to buy Valentine’s Day-related presents. Just over half of the total spending will be on spouses or significant others. But Fido and Fluffy also will receive their share of gifts: More than one-quarter, or 27%, of people will remember their pets with treats, toys or other tokens worth an estimated $1.7 billion.

The federation attributes the spike in spending to strong consumer finances and a continued upward trend of buying more gifts for friends, family, coworkers and pets. “Valentine’s Day is a sentimental tradition, but gift-giving can be driven by the economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “Consumers spent freely during the 2019 winter holidays, and they appear ready to do the same in the new year.”

But the holiday of love hasn’t always been about sentimentality. Legends vary, and details are murky.

Several different saints lived in the early days of Christianity named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred, history.com explains. Two of them were beheaded during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus in the third century A.D. Some believe that Valentine’s Day takes place on Feb. 14 to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial.

Others contend Christians co-opted the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, that took place in the middle of February.

The idea that Valentine’s Day celebrates romantic love is thought to have originated with Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Parliament of Fowls,” a poem written in the late 14th century, according to the British Library. It describes a group of birds that gather together in the early spring — on ‘seynt valentynes day’ — to choose their mates for the year.

And they likely didn’t spend any money.

— Pamela Stallsmith

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