Article from al.com:
Valentine's history may not be clear, but plenty of people enjoy celebrating the holiday.
Welcome to Valentine's Day - the day of love! There are plenty of things to discover about Feb. 14 - its history, trivia and some things you may not know about the heart-filled holiday.
Valentine's Day traces its roots back to the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival that was commemorated annually on Feb. 15. In 496, Pope Gelasius I transformed the holiday into St. Valentine's Day, moving it back one day. There are at least three early Christian saints who go by the name "Valentine."
According to legend, one of those Valentines was a priest who married couples in spite of an order from Emperor Claudius II that forbade young men from tying the knot. Another legend is that Valentine was imprisoned for refusing to worship Roman gods. While in jail, legend says his friends tossed him notes through his cell window. Another legend was that the imprisoned priest sent a letter to his love, signing it "Your Valentine."
Many legends contend Valentine was executed on Feb. 14 in around 269 A.D. Early Europeans also believed Feb. 14 marked the start of the mating season for birds, closely associating that day with romance.
Cupid, another symbol of Valentine's Day, is the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty. Cupid often appears on Valentine cards holding a bow and arrows that can magically make its target fall in love.
Valentine's continued to be celebrated through the years, and often included gift-giving and the exchange of hand-made cards. In the 1850s, Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke graduate and Massachusetts native, began mass-producing Valentine's cards.
The National Retail Federation estimates that U.S. consumers will spend $19.7 billion for the holiday. On average, 54.8 percent of consumers in the U.S. will celebrate Valentine's Day, spending about $147.
About $1.7 billion will be spent on candy alone this Valentine's Day. Candy is the gift of choice for 50 percent of consumers, followed by a trip to a restaurant (38 percent) and jewelry (20 percent.) About $1.1 billion will be spent on greeting cards; $2 billion on apparel; and $1.9 billion on flowers.