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Opinion

Valentine’s Day has become too commercialized

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February 12, 2020

February 14, a day of flowers, cards, and chocolates is celebrated by many in the United States, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, and Australia. But where did this idea of having a “valentine” and sending greeting cards come from? In 3rd century Rome, the Catholic church had a majority of the power within the city, and Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men.

According to History.com, he believed that men were more useful as soldiers than they could ever be as married men. St. Valentine decided he would defy the Emperor, and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Just like the other St. Valentines mentioned in history, he was beheaded by the Emperor. Another St. Valentine in history is given credit for coining the phrase, “from your valentine.” He had written a letter to a woman he loved while imprisoned, a woman who happened to be the jailer’s daughter. Regardless of who he was in history, the figure of St. Valentine is seen as a man who was an empathetic hero and a romantic. This is where the correlation between the name Valentine and romance becomes so strong and well known. 

Why February 14th? Why February in general? Writers and researchers from History.com explained their thought process in an article titled, “History of Valentine’s Day.” Some thought it related to the day that the Saint himself was killed, however, that is not a strongly supported idea. A controversial theory is that the Catholic Church attempted to Christianize the pagan holiday of “Lupercalia.” All the women within the town would put their name in a big urn, the bachelor of the town would then pull out a name and be paired with that woman, commonly ending in marriage between the pair. The hit tv show, “The Bachelor,” was inspired by this tradition. 

Unfortunately, by the 5th century, this holiday was outlawed, coincidentally around the same time that Pope Gelasius declared February 14th Valentine’s day. Later on, Valentine’s day became further associated with the celebration of love. 

Moving toward the modern idea of Valentine’s day, Valentine’s greeting cards first appeared in the 1400s. In the middle of the 18th century, Great Britain made it common for handwritten cards and tokens to be shared amongst friends and lovers. In the 19th century with the upgrade in technology, printed cards began replacing written letters while increasing in popularity due to cheaper postage. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s day cards are sent each year. This makes Valentine’s day the second largest card-sending holiday next to Christmas, with women purchasing 85% of the valentines each year. 

According to an article from Statistica.com, consumers in America spent about $18.2 billion in 2017 on Valentine’s day. That number is expected to rise to around $24.7 billion in 2020. A majority of the sales each year are made up of jewelry, nice clothes, and a night out. Engaged people are estimated to spend around $85 for their partner for Valentine’s day, and married people are estimated to spend around $71. However, with all the money being spent on Valentine’s day, in a 2019 survey, only 51% of Americans said they intended to celebrate. The main reason people feel unmotivated to celebrate the holiday is simply the feeling of being lonely, especially with the day seemingly focused on romantic relationships over any other relationship. About 14% of Americans reported that they would celebrate the holiday alone. 

Numbers continue to show that Americans are spending hundreds of dollars on this one day which most people believe is “overrated” or just made for couples. Another way to look at this day is truly just focusing on love and appreciation of everyone in one’s life rather than just a significant other. In fact, almost everyone ends up celebrating the holiday in one way or another due to the overload of advertising done in association with it. Products are sold in heart shapes and pink colors as well as “punny” and cute messages to encourage consumers to purchase the item regardless of their views on Valentine’s day. 

Personally, Feb 14 has simply always just been a day of love. For my family and me, we use this day as a way to give small tokens of appreciation to our loved ones. Nowadays, there seems to be an immense amount of social pressure put towards not only being in a relationship on Valentine’s day but also doing something elaborate, expensive, and romantic. 

I believe that society just needs to shift their perspective. Instead of buying chocolate and spending $80 on a fancy dinner, call your mom and cook dinner with the family instead. Quality time with loved ones is way more important than buying all the stuffed animals and heart-shaped Reeses in the world (however, treating yourself to some candy is never a bad thing). Traditions are bound to change, and people who talk about the idea of being “anti-Valentine’s day” just need to develop a new tradition, a new way to celebrate. No one really needs a red rose and a box of heart-shaped chocolates on a random day in February, but showing people you love that you love them with a simple gesture is something everyone appreciates.

Ignoring the cliche of the holiday is a good place to start. Show your family and friends you care about them in other ways besides giving in to the advertisements and huge displays in every store. The best way to spend Valentine’s day is to simply appreciate where you are and who you are with, regardless of your relationship status. 

Isabella Forliti is a student at UW-River Falls.