How many people celebrate Valentine's day in the UK

The History of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day, also known as St. Valentine’s Day, is the most globally recognised romantic holiday, celebrated on February 14th. Shrouded in legends and rich history, on this day, lovers express their devotion and appreciation to their significant others, as well as to families and friends through greetings and gifts. 

There are multiple suggested origins for this popular holiday, one of which is in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was held in mid-February, and celebrated the coming of spring with fertility rites. In the late fifth century, Pope Gelasius I banned this festival, and it is said that he replaced it with St. Valentine’s Day, but the true origins are uncertain. Another origin can be traced to the Roman Empire, where Emperor Claudius II banned marriages, believing that single men made better soldiers. This sparked a rebellion by Christian priest Valentine, who secretly performed marriages behind the Emperor’s back. He was eventually arrested and sentenced to death. According to one legend, before his execution, he sent a letter to his jailer’s daughter, signed “from your Valentine”.

More modern origins of Valentine’s Day can be linked back to England. The first known association relating Valentine’s Day to romantic love comes from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem ‘Parlement of Foules’, written in 1382. In it, he writes: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” The well-known Shakespeare play ‘Hamlet’, written between 1600 and 1601, references both St. Valentine’s Day, and the phrase ‘to be your Valentine’, indicating that the holiday had already been established in British culture around this time. 

Whether you have a significant other to celebrate this holiday with, or you are planning on doing some well-deserved self-care, everyone can appreciate the novelty of this holiday. If you want to learn more about statistics and facts relating to how many people actually celebrate Valentine’s Day, and how they plan on spending it, then read on!

How many people celebrate Valentine’s Day in the UK?

According to Finder’s Statistics, in 2021 around 40 million Brits celebrated Valentine’s Day, which although is a significant figure, it is actually a drop from the 41.1 million people who commemorated this holiday in 2020. Further statistics from About Time suggest that people from London (73.5%) and Northern Ireland (73.2%) are the most likely to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their loved ones. Whereas only 35% of people living in Yorkshire and the Midlands will be doing anything to honour this holiday in the new year. 

Considering it is nearly impossible to pop to the shops without seeing some form of Valentine’s advertising, these figures seem lower than what we would expect! This could be for many reasons, most notably, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many holidays, as people were trapped inside their homes, and could not go out for their annual Valentine’s celebrations with their loved ones. 

Valentine’s Day in the United States

The United States is one of the biggest celebrators of this romantic holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, the American public was predicted to have spent $21.1 billion on gifts in 2021, which would have been the second-highest year for expenses in a period of 10 years. The most expensive year for Americans was 2020 when it was estimated that an average of $27.4 billion was spent on gifts and Valentine’s Day plans. 

America has been celebrating Valentine’s Day since the nineteenth century, but it became particularly popular in the twentieth century, especially in schools where it is a major event. Students will often exchange Valentine’s cards, and bring in a card for everyone in their class. They will also give a gift to their teachers, such as chocolates or flowers. Adults in the U.S. will also traditionally celebrate with their significant others, family, and friends just like in the UK. They exchange gifts and make holiday-specific plans. 

Valentine’s Day around the world!

Despite its widespread popularity, not everyone is fond of Valentine’s Day. Some countries have even banned the celebration, and enforced penalties on anyone found to be celebrating. One example of this is in Saudi Arabia, which prohibits public displays of affection, and discourages men and women from socialising in public places. As a direct result, Valentine’s day is officially banned. In 2017, Pakistan joined the list of countries that have banned Valentine’s Day, as it was ruled to not be in line with Muslim tradition. It was argued that the holiday promotes indecent behaviour and extramarital relationships, which goes against Islamic teachings. This is further seen in Malaysia, as 61% of the population are practising Muslims. In 2005, the religious ruling of fatwa was created by Islamic authorities, which banned the celebration of Valentine’s Day.  

Interestingly, some places in the United States and the United Kingdom, where Valentine’s Day traditions are strongest, have begun banning its celebration. A handful of schools in Florida and Minnesota started to prohibit students from bringing in cards or gifts on the romantic holiday, citing the reason being due to the holidays cultural sensitivity. There have also been bans implemented in the UK in the name of protecting the environment, and also suggesting that children are not mature enough to celebrate.

It appears that in some cases, Valentine’s Day may have to contend with its own share of rejection!

How much do British people spend on Valentine’s Day?

Have you ever wondered how much the United Kingdom spends on Valentine’s day, or what types of gifts and items are the most popular purchases for this holiday? 

Keep reading to find out some of the most surprising Valentine’s Day facts and statistics that we have gathered for you. 

Facts and Statistics about Valentine’s Day

Here are the 5 most shocking statistics relating to this romantic holiday: 

1. In 2021, the average amount spent per person in the UK on Valentine’s Day was £23, which totals £926 million. Those who had planned on spending money on themselves for the holiday, averaged £12.50 each, totalling £155 million across the UK. (Finder’s Statistics)

2. Reports have found that British people spend nearly £261 million on flower bouquets just on Valentine’s Day. The only holiday that matches this figure is Mother’s Day, at £260 million. This is largely due to the fact that 21% of people in the UK would choose flowers as the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. (Statista) (MuchNeeded

3. A study by Media IQ has revealed that 25% of British people shopped online to purchase their Valentine’s Day gifts. Additionally, around 17% of people make dinner reservations online prior to February 14th. (MuchNeeded) 

4. Recent statistics have shown that 1 in 3 couples would normally go out to a restaurant for dinner on Valentine’s Day, however over half of internet users in both the UK and the U.S. have reported still feeling uncomfortable about indoor dining as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The same source revealed that 3 in 10 couples tend to cook at home instead of going out. (GWI)

5. It is no surprise that Valentine’s Day is considered to be the most romantic time of the year. So it comes as no surprise that a high percentage of people propose and get engaged on this day each year. According to Fortunly, it is a staggering 6 million couples on average who pop the question on the day of love! (Fortunly)

What do British people give each other on Valentine’s Day?

In the UK, the most popular Valentine’s Day gifts include chocolates, sweets, and flowers, with the most valuable gifts being those that have been made by hand. Rarer gifts include bottles of wine or liquor, perfumes, jewellery, and lingerie. However, the British public typically does not lean towards the more expensive gifts and instead values the smaller, more sentimental gifts, among which Teddy bears are the most popular. Not all Valentine’s gifts are physical. In the UK, romantic dinners at home are considered the most popular form of celebration, in comparison to having a dinner out, or going on a romantic trip away. 

As Valentine’s Day continues to be celebrated across the world by millions of people, whether it be through big romantic gestures or simple gifts like a nice bouquet of flowers. We hope these facts and statistics have helped inform you on where the UK and the wider world stand with this intimate holiday, and potentially even provided some inspiration for gift ideas for your loved ones!


Finder’s Statistics 






About Time

National Retail Federation

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