With Valentine’s Day just a few short days away on February 14, The National Retail Federation (NRF) reminded the public just how much joy it takes in spending money on gifts for our loved ones, such as flowers, candy and jewelry. In fact, this year’s NRF annual survey revealed that total spending on significant others for the holiday is expected to reach a record $14.2 billion. Consumers expect to spend $185.81 each on average, nearly $8 more than the average Valentine’s Day spending over the last five years.

“Retailers are ready to help customers this Valentine’s Day with meaningful and memorable gifts,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “With consumers prioritizing their spouse or significant other this year, retailers expect to see a shift in spending for certain gifting categories.”

The top gifts include candy (57 percent), greeting cards (40 percent), flowers (39 percent), an evening out (32 percent), jewelry (22 percent), clothing (21 percent) and gift cards (19 percent). New spending records are expected for jewelry ($6.4 billion), flowers ($2.6 billion), clothing ($3 billion) and an evening out ($4.9 billion).

Here’s an interesting fast fact about the holiday—nearly 250 million roses are grown in preparation for Valentine's Day each year.

Over half of consumers (53 percent) plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, on par with 52 percent last year. Overall, consumers plan to spend a total of $25.8 billion to celebrate Valentine’s Day, on par with last year’s spending and the third highest in the survey’s history. Sixty-two percent of consumers ages 25 to 34 plan to celebrate this year, more than any other age group.

While lavish spending on our loved ones isn’t necessarily surprising on the most romantic day of the calendar year, the romantic tradition and origin of the special day may not be common knowledge.

According to History.com, some sources Indicate Saint Valentine is actually two distinct historical characters who were said to have healed a child while imprisoned and executed by decapitation. Despite all the romance, the day is said to have its roots in an ancient pagan festival, while some believe that Valentine's Day commemorates the death of St. Valentine on February 14.

 Saint Valentine. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
At the end of the 5th century, Roman Pope Gelasius officially declared the date of February 14 "St. Valentine's Day." It wasn't until the Middle Ages, though, that the holiday became associated with love and romance, a tradition that first started from the common belief in France and England that birds started their mating season on February 14.

People started exchanging cards and handwritten letters to both lovers and friends during the 17th century, but it was in the 1840s that the first Valentine's Day cards were mass-produced in the U.S., sold by Esther A. Howland, according to History.com.

In addition to the U.S., Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.

According to Hallmark, 145 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged every February 14. This makes Valentine's Day the second biggest holiday for exchanging greeting cards, after Christmas.

Which brings us back to 2024 and this year’s Valentine’s Day preparations. Last year, consumers used Valentine’s Day to celebrate all the special relationships in their lives—from pets to friends and co-workers—and their spending reflected that. This year, while consumers still value the non-romantic relationships in their lives, they are prioritizing gifts for significant others, according to the NRF.

Among those not celebrating Valentine’s Day, 29 percent still plan to mark the occasion in some way, according to NRF. Many will treat themselves to something special, while others will plan a get-together or evening out with their single friends or family members.

ECPs are also getting on the Valentine’s Day bandwagon. Here, we take a look at how some indies have encouraged their followers and patients to give their eyes some love by stopping by for an eye exam and checking out their optical collections for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

In Atlanta, Ansley Eye Care encouraged patients to stop by and pick up the perfect V-Day gift for that special someone. Image via ansleyeyecare on Instagram

The “Barbie” fascination with the color pink lives on at Elevated Eye Care in New Braunfels, Texas. Image via elevatedeyecaretx on Instagram

Huntley Eye Care in Huntley, Ill., believes nothing says Happy Valentine’s Day more than a “bouquet” of freshly picked glasses. Image via huntleyeyecare on Instagram

To get into the Valentine’s Day spirit, Drs. Shundale Mixon and Kenneth Mixon of Gwinnett Pediatric and Adult Eye Center in Suwanee, Ga., reflected on the best part of working with your spouse. Image via womenods on Instagram

Prevent Blindness is encouraging followers to show your eyes some love and schedule an eye exam. Image via prevent_blindness on Instagram

The team at Eye Q Optique in Chicago is advising patients to unlock love’s treasure with Tiffany & Co.’s Heart Collection. Image via eyeqoptique on Instagram