Wednesday is Valentine’s Day. Mention this day to someone and you’ll be met with a variety of emotions and sentiment.

Stories of the origin of St. Valentine’s Day frequently include accounts of the martyrdom of a priest named Valentinus or Valentine. Roman emperor Claudius II had nullified engagements and banned new marriages in order to increase the size of his army. Valentine defied the ban and continued marrying couples until he was discovered and killed on February 14, 270 AD. There are stories of another priest, also named Valentine, who was martyred on February 14 in a different year for helping imprisoned Christians. In any event, the idea of risk and martyrdom for the sake of honorable love became a tradition that has remained strong over the years.

The National Retail Federation estimates that 55% of Americans will celebrate Valentine’s Day this year and spend approximately $19.6 billion, an average of $143.56 per person, on the holiday.

20% will purchase jewelry for their beloved, spending approximately $4.3 billion in the process.

35% will spend $3.7 billion on an evening out.

26% will spend another $2 billion on flowers. It is estimated that about 250 million roses are produced for the Valentine’s Day holiday each year.

17% will purchase clothing to the tune of $1.9 billion and 15% will buy gift cards and gift certificates equating to $1.5 billion.

55% will pick up candy and chocolate, spending another $1.8 billion.

And, while many feel Valentine’s Day is strictly a ploy created by greeting card companies to enhance sales, 46% of Americans will only spend about $894 million on greeting cards.

This year, Valentine’s Day also falls on Ash Wednesday, the official start of lent in Christianity. Interestingly, the last time this occurred was in 1945, and, it will happen again in 2024 and 2029. If you practice this form of self-sacrifice, it presents an opportunity to consider a different approach to celebrating Valentine’s Day, or, at the very least, it might not be the best year to give up red wine or chocolate.