Besides a chubby little cherub wielding a bow and arrow, what else comes to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day? If you said candy, flowers and jewelry—you’re not alone.
According to www.History.com, chocolate has been thought to be an aphrodisiac for centuries; used in the pursuit of love as long ago as the Aztec empire.
The tradition of boxed Valentine’s Day candy is often credited to Richard Cadbury, one of the founders of the British chocolate-making family, who began packaging candy in artistically decorated boxes around 1868. The Victorians quickly came to consider the elaborate reusable chocolate boxes as special gifts, and the rest is history.
Today, Nielsen research indicates that Americans will purchase around 58 million pounds of chocolate in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, including 35 million heart-shaped boxes full of it.
The Navy Exchange, anticipating the needs of all the chocoholic romantics at NAS Patuxent River, offers “an assortment of sizes and brands from Dove through Godiva,” said Juanita Hagan, softlines department manager.
If you still want to “say it with candy” but not with chocolate, there’s the ever-popular conversation hearts.
Manufactured by the New England Confectionery Company, Sweethearts have been a Valentine’s Day tradition for more than a century. According to the NECCO website, 8 billion pieces—or 100,000 pounds—of the candy is produced each year. A few of the most popular current sayings include “tweet me,” “text me,” “you rock,” “love bug” and “you + me.”
Giving flowers on Valentine’s Day stems from floriography—flower writing—a long-standing method of sending flowers to convey messages of love when those messages dared not be spoken out loud. As the tradition of floral gift giving blossomed across Europe in the 18th Century, it soon became a custom associated with Valentine’s Day.
Anticipating the need, the NEX flower shop is bursting with fragrant fresh blooms, including plenty of that Valentine’s Day staple—red roses.
“We ordered 12,000 of them,” said floral designer Megan Jones. “And we’re offering them at the special price of $18.99 per dozen,” added Kay Mammola, service operations clerk.
The Society of American Florists reported last year that 224 million roses were produced for Valentine’s Day, and while roses made up 53 percent of all floral orders, red roses—the color symbolizing passionate love—made up 67 percent of all rose orders.
When it comes to giving flowers for Valentine’s Day, most men buy for their spouse or significant other while women use the day as an opportunity to show they care to their mothers, daughters or friends.
Reuters reports that the average guy will spend about $160 on Feb. 14 between gifts, entertainment and dinner out; with women expected to spend only half that amount.
For those wishing to make the holiday extremely special, the NEX jewelry counter offers an assortment of diamond rings and necklaces, pearls and various other gemstones. And while round and princess cut diamond solitaires remain their best sellers, “rubies and garnets are also popular for Valentine’s Day,” Hagan said.
While the true history of Valentine’s Day remains somewhat of a mystery, we know that it contains elements of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition and is rooted in martyrs, lovers and pagan spring festivals.
But one thing is certain—with that single day each February responsible for approximately $18 billion in spending—it not only remains a sentimental favorite, but has become serious business as well.