By: Malena Esposito
Ah, yes. It’s February, and you know what that means. The most romantic holiday of the year is almost upon us, resulting in a little extra affection from the couples and a little more annoyance to the uncommitted. Come on, you know how it goes. Your friend won’t stop asking you for some good old Valentine’s Day advice, even though you’re more single than the Tenere Tree in the Sahara Desert. Whether it’s what to buy, where to go, or what to do, you just can’t seem to hear the end of their picture-perfect, lovey-dovey plans for the evening. Meanwhile, the romance of your night extends as far as buying a heart-shaped pizza for yourself while watching The Notebook on your couch.
For some, Valentine’s Day is a day of love, happiness and admiration. You and your significant other plan something amazing, whether it be dinner and a movie, a stroll in the park with a picnic, or just enjoying each other’s company. However, for others, it’s a day spent in bed, feeling sorry for yourself, binge watching Netflix and wondering how long it will take to eat all of that chocolate. But have you ever stopped to consider why this so called “holiday” even exists? Wouldn’t it be the perfect ploy for corporate companies to make money off us, tricking us into buying gifts like jewelry, cards, flowers, food, and stuffed animals?
The most popular belief is that Valentine’s Day emerged from the Catholic Saint, Valentine, dating all the way back to the Roman Empire. During this time, the Romans attended the Festival of Lupercalia, celebrating fertility and often pairing off a boy and girl to be married in the future. However, Emperor Claudius II made a law that banned the marriage of young people, believing that the bond between husband and wife kept the soldiers from putting up a strong fight in battle. In response to this, Saint Valentine, who was simply known as a Roman priest at the time, performed secret marriage ceremonies against his Emperor’s wishes. Eventually, Valentine was caught and tortured, then beheaded in prison on February 14th, 270. Legend has it that he befriended a cell-guard’s daughter, and, in his farewell note to her, signed it as “from your Valentine.”
Yet, regardless of this story, Valentine’s Day is really just another “Hallmark Holiday”. This means that the Hallmark Card Company created it in order to make a profit, successfully filling in the card-giving void between Christmas and Easter. But the Hallmark Card Company isn’t the only business that benefits from this trap that is Cupid Consumerism. Think of all the stuffed animals, chocolate truffle boxes, flower bouquets and specialty food and beverage options you have to choose from during this time of the month. According to StatisticBrain.com, 180 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, with 85% of that revenue coming from women. FunDivo.com records that in 2016 alone, Valentine’s Day sales reached a record high of $19.7 billion, compared to the 2015 value of $18.9 billion. FunDivo.com also stated that about $4.5 billion comes from dining out and jewelry, while flowers and candy rack up almost $2 billion and $1.8 billion. Both of these sources also proclaim that the average amount spent on Valentine’s Day in 2016 was $196 for men and $100 per women, averaging $147 total per person.
But despite the brutal backstory and the bewildering statistics, Valentine’s Day celebrates love. No matter your relationship status, single, taken, or “it’s complicated”, use this day to admire all of your loved ones, not just a significant other. Admire yourself, while you’re at it. Buy those chocolates, order that pizza, watch that chick flick; you know that those businesses appreciate it.