Valentine’s Day, a major occasion for many Americans, was originally a fertility festival for the pre-Roman pagans. Later, the Catholic Church “Christianized” it by dedicating it to the honor of St. Valentine, the patron of those pursuing romantic causes. (In 1969, however, Pope Paul VI removed it from the Calendar of Saints.)
Like another religious holiday (Christmas) and another pagan holiday (Halloween), Valentine’s Day has become highly commercialized. It’s the number one occasion for chocolate candy sales. About 200 million roses are cultivated for giving on that day. But although many people feel that excessive consumerism has ruined the romance, last year they spent an estimated $18.2 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts for their loved ones (according to the National Retail Federation).
The classic celebration involves gifts of chocolate and flowers and perhaps a dinner date, but people are increasing departing from that convention to personalize the holiday. Some single people are “self-gifting on Valentine’s Day, while others celebrate the love they share with their furry companions.
A survey carried out annually by the American Pet Products Association provides a lot of pet-specific information. Last year, the APPA surveyed a little over 2500 pet owners, including some 500 dog owners. Seventy-eight percent of the dog owners purchased a gift for their pet that year. Christmas was the major gift-giving occasion, but next highest was “anytime/no special occasion” at 44 percent. Birthday presents were given by 28 percent of respondents and Valentine’s Day gifts by only six percent. This survey found that the average spent per gift was $14 and the average number of gifts given by each respondent was five per year.
A different but widely-cited survey, by the National Retail Federation, found that spending on gifts for pet dogs and cats on V-Day totaled about $3.6 billion. That’s an average of about $5.25 on per pet. And that’s in the context of pet owner’s spending $72 each on dog treats per year and $47 on toys. Most people, it seems, don’t go crazy with Valentine’s day gifts, although there are some astonishing exceptions.
For example, a somewhat unscientific survey by Rover.com of 1,000 U.S. pet owners found that a full 95 percent of them bought Christmas gifts for their pets, and one in 20 said they spent ore than $100 on them. One man said he took his dog out to a fancy restaurant for dinner; another said he gives his pet bubble baths (obviously, that wasn’t a cat owner) and yet another said: “I buy a Christmas tree every year for my cat.” The most extravagant example comes from an article by Kate Bratskeir in the Huffington Post. From the Posh Puppy Boutique, one can buy a $150,000 diamond-and-leather collar sporting a glorious diamond pendant. There are also several other luxury collars on offer for “only” $3,000.
Some changes are occurring in the composition of dog owners, however, which may influence some of the gifting described above. In particular, it’s noteworthy that Millennials have supplanted Boomers as the generation most likely to own a dog (38 percent v. 31 percent). Also interesting is the fact that 25 percent of owners obtained their dog from a breeder, 25 percent from a friend or relative, and 22 percent from a shelter. Twelve percent took in a dog from a rescue group. Happily, only 4 percent went to a pet store, and only 6 percent purchased their dog from a pet chain/superstore.
In addition, data from the Statista website (January 2016) suggest that pet owners may be turning from a focus on buying tangible gifts to giving the gift of time or special experiences (this is true among people, also). So if you wish, go ahead and show your love for your Kerry with treats (not chocolate, of course, though that’s what 94 percent of humans say they want on V-Day) and bling. Or take your sweetheart on an especially nice outing, offer a special dinner (perhaps home-cooked) and some special little gift. The main and most treasured gift will be the extra time he or she gets to spend with you.
And P.S. -- If you forget to get your dog a gift for Valentine’s Day, don’t fret. You can instead celebrate National Love Your Pet Day on February 20. Your Kerry may even prefer a holiday just for him or herl