I think it comes as news to no one that holidays are massive commercial opportunities for businesses. Christmas, perhaps, is the most infamous example. Every big company jumps to decorate their store in the theme of the upcoming holiday and relish in the notion that consumers are essentially obligated to go out and dump their wallets on gifts. What separates Valentine’s Day from a holiday like Christmas, however, is that Valentine’s Day has no deeper meaning to its celebration beyond sappy cards and massive heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. Most of you reading this would likely argue that Valentine’s Day is meaningful because it serves as the day to convey our feelings of love and appreciation for our significant others, but I challenge that. Why do we need a special day to show our feelings for one another? The truth is that we do not. Valentine’s Day exists as a way for big corporations to take advantage of our generosity and swindle us out of billions of dollars every year.
Come February 14, every thoughtful person in a relationship feels the immense pressure of spending their hard-earned money to shower their S.O. in gifts. According to an annual survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, consumers in the United States are expected to spend a total of 25.9 billion dollars for Valentine’s Day this year. That money will partially be spent on more personal gifts, yes, but it will primarily go towards exorbitant amounts of chocolate, flowers, and other red and pink-themed Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. So why are we spending all this money on such an insubstantial holiday?
The pressure that consumers feel on Valentine’s Day to go out and spend is entirely fabricated by companies that have their hungry eyes set on our wallets. They have made it seem that we need to spend all this money every year as a sort of customary tradition, but that tradition is rooted in nothing. If I were to go around asking everyone I know to explain the historical significance of Valentine’s Day, I doubt I would get one decent answer. This is not because Valentine’s Day has some deeply esoteric, mystifying history to explain its existence, but rather that its history has absolutely nothing to do with why we celebrate it at all. While I do not want to turn this article into a history lesson, what I will say is that in its original form—a Christian feast to honor the life of St. Valentine on the day he was martyred—Valentine’s Day could not be less related to what it stands for now. Transforming Valentine’s Day from what it originally was to the commercial goldmine it is now was honestly an ingenious strategy by the corporate world, and they have managed to conceal its historical insignificance entirely.
All roads of this article seem to lead to me saying that we should not celebrate Valentine’s Day, or that we need to transform it into something more meaningful, but oddly enough I do not believe either of those things. Even though I believe the holiday is a capitalistic scam of sorts, and that it serves no deeper, historically observative purpose, there is still much to like about it. It is a day that generates so many positive feelings of love and appreciation that I could never argue its existence to be a bad thing, no matter how pervasive and inescapable of a day it has become. Ultimately, all I wish to raise is that we consider a bit more critically why we are going out and spending so much for Valentine’s Day, and what we seek to gain from doing so.