Loving Valentine’s Day

Loving Valentine’s Day

Maya Bose, Copy Editor

Candy hearts, pink balloons, and cheesy couples’ shirts. Valentine’s Day rolls around once a year, interrupting winter storms and depressing weather with dreams of romance and chocolates. This holiday sounds sweet, but don’t underestimate its power: last year, Forbes estimated that consumers spent 23.9 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day. The holiday is unmistakably associated with spending (in some people’s eyes, wasted spending)–but it didn’t always used to be this way. 

When looking at the origins of Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14 is known for its forbidden love stories, rather than materialism. The exact story behind the real St. Valentine is unknown, with at least three Catholic saints being called Valentine, but their stories all revolve around love. History’s article “Valentine’s Day 2023: Origins, Background, Traditions” says that one version discusses a saint who performed secret marriages; another describes Valentine as an imprisoned man who fell in love with his jailor’s daughter. The date February 14 has been associated with many stories as well, ranging from the beginning of bird mating season to the death of the Christian saint. Since the 17th century, people have embraced the tradition of trading Valentine’s Day cards. These cards were a lot more elaborate than the cards of today: people used to buy or make creations filled with real lace, ribbons, and photos. Regardless of origin or tradition, it’s safe to say that the old version of Valentine’s Day revolved around love. 

However, is that still the case? The tradition of swapping cards is still as strong as ever: the Greeting Card Association estimates that 145 million cards are exchanged on Valentine’s Day, making it the second most popular holiday for sending cards. Yet along with card sending comes a rise in dining out and expensive gifts, notably jewelry. The National Retail Foundation says that 52 percent of Americans plan to celebrate the holiday and spend an average of 192.80 dollars. Obviously, Valentine’s Day comes with many expectations, which can lead to anxiety: Psychology Today found that 43 percent of single people consider the day to be the highest-pressure holiday. In the modern day, there’s no denying that Valentine’s Day has become commercialized, with potentially negative consequences for both singles and couples. 

However, these studies largely revolve around American consumers. In fact, Valentine’s Day traditions vary greatly around the world. Though American activities normally involve spending, according to Today’s article “Valentine’s Day Traditions,” countries like South Africa and the Czech Republic maintain older, sweeter traditions. For instance, South African women may write the name of their loved one on a piece of paper and pin it to their sleeve (a spin on the phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve”). Czech lovers traditionally visit a statue of a famed poet and stroll beneath cherry trees. And to top it off, the Filipino government hosts a mass marriage ceremony, intended to recognize love as a united nation. Valentine’s Day remains a beloved cultural staple around the world. Americans may need to take some notes and go back to their roots.

In conclusion, Valentine’s Day is not doomed to be a corporate grab for money. If cherished properly, its rich history and love-struck traditions can bring some sweetness to the holiday. So the next time Feb. 14 rolls around, consider bypassing the jewelry aisles and instead spending some more quality time with your loved one.