Pricewatch: Love is in the air – and it costs about €500
Valentine’s Day comes with a pretty hefty price tag for most Irish couples
Valentine’s Day comes with a pretty hefty price tag for most Irish couples
That time is upon us again: the day when everyone is supposed to be in love and told by the media and the markets of the world to express their love by spending substantial sums of cash on cards, chocolates and all the rest.
Aldi The German discounter – and its closest rival Lidl – are the places to go if you want impressive looking, but not hideously expensive, roses on the big day. Both will have bouquets to suit all budgets but the fanciest roses will be fresh in-store on the days from the middle of the week. Supplies are sure to be limited so if you don’t want to be disappointed, drop into one of the stores early on whatever day you’re buying them.
Bubbles Does it have to be champagne? Although the most traditional booze with which to celebrate the big day, prosecco is much cheaper but can be too sweet and not sufficiently bubbly for many tastes. Cava is pretty good value too but your best bet might be a Cremant. This sparkling wine comes from a region close to Champagne but the wines cost a whole lot less. Late last year our own John Wilson described Aldi’s Cremant de Jura as “one of the best-value fizzes” – hardly surprising given that it was priced at just €11.99.
Cards More than one billion romantically inclined cards will be exchanged all over the world and if the average price of such a card is just €2 then between us all we will spend a mad €2 billion. Around 20 tonnes of paper will be needed to make all the cards and if we assume that 30 per cent of the cards come from recycled materials, we will only need to cut down around 350,000 trees. And that’s good because nothing says “I love you” like a ravaged forest.
Dine in Around half of Irish couples will have a home-cooked meal with their significant other on Valentine’s Day. At least one in four won’t actually cook and will rely on the special meal deals from supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer and Tesco. The M&S dine-in deal, which is running all this week, is always very good value for money with a starter, a main, a side dish, dessert, a bottle of cava and a box of chocolates normally costing €25. And if you decant everything properly you may be able to pretend you put all the effort in and made the meal yourself.
Expenses According to market research firm Mintel, British consumers spent an eye watering £650m (€748m) on Valentine’s gifts last year. If we were to extrapolate Irish spending from those numbers, Irish people are likely to spend around €70m when all the romantic bills are paid.
Fools for love We came across a price survey from a couple of years back which suggested that Irish romantics spend more on Valentine’s Day flowers than their peers across Europe. The average bouquet bought in the Republic costing €55, compared with €47 in the UK and just €33 in Germany.
Garage flowers Just don’t. Nothing says I really don’t give a rashers about you more than a bunch of straggly flowers bought at the last second from a petrol station forecourt.
Hallmark Valentine’s Day is frequently referred to as the Hallmark Holiday but the company, which is around 100 years old, is not really to blame for all the cards we send. The tradition of sending Valentine’s cards dates back to the 15th century. Valentines used to be known as amorous addresses and the first one is widely attributed to Charles, Duke of Orleans. He was captured by Perfidious Albion in the Battle of Agincourt and was locked up in the tower where he spent his days writing romantic verses to his wife. The practice spread throughout Europe and eventually reached the US.
Idea Are you looking for an idea to make your loved one heart you on Valentine’s Day but not keen to blow a lot of cash? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Buy heart-shaped cookie cutters – they’re sold in every kitchen and homeware shop for not much more than a fiver. Use the cookie cutter to make heart-shaped eggs, romantic pancakes and loved-up toast at a total cost of less than a tenner. Get some bubbles from a discounter, some freshly squeezed orange juice and a dozen cheapish roses, and you’re good to go for less than €30. You. Are. Welcome.
Jewels One of the most popular gift choices although most surveys we have come across of late suggest jewellery is a long way behind chocolates and lingerie.
Kenya There’s a good chance the roses you wake up to on Thursday morning will have come from Kenya or Tanzania via Amsterdam. They are cut there and transported in a refrigerated truck to an airport and flown – equally chilled – to Amsterdam – to be sold at auction to wholesalers who then distribute them to independent florists and retail chains here.
Lupercalia It is impossible to know for sure but it seems likely that Valentine’s Day has its roots in the Roman feast of Lupercalia which had a lot less to do with giving flowers to your loved ones and a lot more to do with killing dogs and goats and whipping women with bloody hides. The day would dawn with Roman priests sacrificing a goat or a dog and they would then use strips of the animals’ hides dipped in blood to whip women to boost their fertility. After that bachelors would pick the names of women from clay urns. And then whip them with bloody hides.
Marriage proposals If you think Valentine’s Day is the most popular day for people to pop the question you’re wrong. The day when most people get engaged is, in fact, Christmas Day but Valentine’s Day is in second place. If you are considering asking for a person’s hand this week, think hard about it. Make sure they like Valentine’s Day – if they are not big fans they will probably consider your proposal a terrible cliché. And don’t do it in a restaurant. It will be loud. It will be packed. And the people sitting at the tables around you will be eavesdropping.
Notions Don’t be worried about having the perfect day. As with so many things in our world the media – present company excluded, obviously – creates all sorts of unrealistic expectations as to what Valentine’s Day should be and then when it fails to be all that people inevitably get disappointed.
Online boasting There are many good things about social media but #smugposts about how loved up you are and how amazing your Valentine’s Day is, are not among them. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook make it too easy to share every single moment of every single day. If you are having a great Valentine’s Day with someone you love, keep it to yourself.
Price Like it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day comes with a pretty hefty price tag for most Irish couples. By the time midnight on Thursday comes many couples will have little change out of €500 once they have totted up the cost of the roses, the card, the bubbles, the gift, and the “romantic” candlelit dinner in a restaurant that has shoehorned extra tables in so more people can enjoy the “special menus” where the only really special thing is the price.
Question Where is St Valentine now? There are several churches across Europe that claim to have bits of him and his relics are said to be in Rome, Terni, Vienna, Prague and Glasgow and Dublin. Pope Gregory XVI was impressed in 1853 by the oratorical skills of a visiting Irish Carmelite called John Spratt and gave him some of Valentine’s blood and body parts as a gift. The Irish priest brought them back to his church on Dublin’s Whitefriar Street. The relics are still there and will be placed on the high altar on the big day.
Roses There are more variants of roses than you could possibly know but Grand Prix are the Rolls Royce of the market. A dozen long-stemmed roses can cost upwards of €80 at the best of times, but the price spikes on Valentine’s Day and you will pay 20 per cent more on Thursday compared with today.
Sweets When it comes to Valentine’s Day gifts chocolates are the runaway favourite. But it wasn’t always that way. Food and Valentine’s Day did not hook up until just over 100 years ago and back then conversation lozenges were what people used to sweep other people off their feet. And what are Conversation Lozenges? Well, they were invented by an English chap called Joseph Dobson who had made his small fortune making wedding cakes and – the gods of Google tell us – funeral biscuits. Chocolate only became associated with romance which Richard Cadbury realised he could sell more chocolates in February if he decorated his boxes with love motifs. His idea was that recipients could hang on to the boxes and use them to hide secret love letters. You’d struggle to hide an email or a right swipe on Tinder.
Toblerone If you’re single, don’t beat yourself up over it, rejoice instead. While couples all over the world are blowing cash on stuff they don’t need, you can have a low-cost day.
Universal demand Unlike Christmas Day which isn’t celebrated in vast swathes of the planet, Valentine’s Day is almost universal and celebrated in much the same way everywhere. And by that we mean celebrated with roses. Florists always get a lot of flack for the spike in the price of roses on Valentine’s Day but much of the criticism is unfair. Prices climb all over the world because huge demand puts huge pressure on every link in the international flower chain. African growers hire and pay extra staff, freight companies pay premiums, prices on international markets spike and then florists have to pay overtime to staff. It ultimately comes down to demand. A normal-sized flower shop might sell a couple of hundred roses on a normal day and 5,000 on February 14th.
Valentine The man himself. Or the men themselves, really. There are three Valentines who get a mention in early martyrologies. There was a priest from Rome, a bishop of the Italian town of Terni and another Valentine who died violently in Africa. The Terni bishop is widely regarded as our Valentine and the one credited with secretly marrying Roman soldiers to stop them being shipped off to war by emperor Claudius II. Whoever the Valentine was who gave us all the mid-February madness, he doesn’t deserve the credit at all. All the credit should go to birds. February 14th was chosen in medieval times to be the day for lovers because it held to be the spring day when birds chose their mate.
White Day They do Valentine’s Day a bit differently in South Korea. Next Thursday women will give chocolates to the men in their lives. Fast forward a month to what is known as White Day and men will give non-chocolate sweets to the women in their lives. Then on April 14th or Black Day, those who did not receive anything on Valentine’s Day or White Day eat black noodles in restaurants.
XXX Kisses, literally the only time we can find a use for this letter when we’re doing an A to Z.
Yikes Research from the UK suggests that average restaurant prices increase by 35 per cent on Valentine’s Day, and there is no reason to believe things are much different here. To be fair to restaurants, they have had a very lean January and it is not like they have marched us into their establishments at gunpoint and forced us to eat whatever it is they are serving up.
Zoo Dublin Zoo used to host all sorts of Valentine’s Day events and while we couldn’t find any mention of them on the site this year, it is still a surprisingly romantic spot and lovely place to go for a stroll. It also starts with the letter Z and, let’s be honest, we were struggling on that score.