Valentine’s Day – A Marketing Scam or a Day Filled with Love?

By Veronika M. Heinrich

Valentine’s Day Card from 1876

When­ev­er I talk to peo­ple about Valentine’s Day, I get some sort of hate­ful response. It’s only about mon­ey. You’re forced to buy some­thing for your sig­nif­i­cant oth­er or they’ll be mad. It’s more roman­tic to show your love every day in small ges­tures rather than doing so only one day a year. And it’s all just a devi­ous plan of the indus­try, try­ing to sell heart-shaped food, flow­ers, and oth­er fes­tive nonsense.

Is that the truth or can Valentine’s Day be some­thing more? As a fan of spread­ing love and appre­ci­a­tion, I want to inves­ti­gate this fur­ther. What are the roots of Valentine’s Day? And how can we escape all this neg­a­tiv­i­ty and make it an enjoy­able day?

The ori­gin of Valentine’s Day lies in ancient Rome around 250 A.D. when a Chris­t­ian priest named Valen­tine mar­ried sol­diers, a prac­tice for­bid­den in the Roman army. He was behead­ed on Feb­ru­ary 14, 269 A.D., as Chris­tian­i­ty was still pro­hib­it­ed. But Valen­tine of Rome became a mar­tyr and patron saint of lovers.

Dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages, peo­ple would write each oth­er poems and con­fess their love for each oth­er on Valentine’s Day. This is a prac­tice I would like to go back to as it’s what Valentine’s Day is about for me: Appre­ci­a­tion for your loved ones. But be it lazi­ness, dis­in­ter­est, or the lack of cre­ativ­i­ty, these hand­made love let­ters start­ed to van­ish at the end of the 18th cen­tu­ry. Instead, you could now copy poems from books and buy Valentine’s Day cards. When stamps were invent­ed in 1840, send­ing mail became much cheap­er, and many pre-pro­duced cards were sent out. This was the begin­ning of the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Valentine’s Day, and in the 19th cen­tu­ry, British set­tlers brought Valentine’s Day to the U.S. and oth­er countries.

Over time, com­pa­nies dis­cov­ered they could make tons of mon­ey with this one spe­cial day. In 1868, Cad­bury start­ed sell­ing choco­late in heart-shaped box­es – the begin­ning of the enor­mous assort­ment of Valentine’s Day prod­ucts we know today.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there’s also pres­sure when it comes to mod­ern Valentine’s Day cel­e­bra­tions. You’re expect­ed to spend a lot of mon­ey to cre­ate the per­fect day. You’ll need flow­ers, can­dles, choco­late, and even din­ner reser­va­tions. Although I very much like the idea of ded­i­cat­ing a day to a loved per­son, like a sec­ond birth­day, pur­chased items are not nec­es­sar­i­ly the best oppor­tu­ni­ty to show your love. Of course, it’s easy to walk to the next store, grab some flow­ers, give them to your wife, and be done for the next 12 months. But how sad is that! Instead, why not give some­thing hand­craft­ed that comes from the heart? If you’re not poet­i­cal­ly inclined – no prob­lem. You can write a love let­ter list­ing the things you love about your part­ner – some­times, it can be that easy. It’s the ges­ture that counts. Or maybe you just want to slow down for a day and spend some qual­i­ty time togeth­er. Remem­ber: Valentine’s Day is about love, not buy­ing stuff.

Valentine’s Day also hap­pens to put peo­ple who are sin­gle under a lot of pres­sure. They feel left out since this day seems to be a cel­e­bra­tion of roman­tic love only. But what’s wrong with giv­ing gifts – hand­made or bought – to your rel­a­tives? Your par­ents, your sib­lings, your favorite aunt? That’s how Valentine’s Day is cel­e­brat­ed in Japan.

If Valentine’s Day both­ers you, you might cel­e­brate Library Lovers Day, which also hap­pens to be com­mem­o­rat­ed on Feb­ru­ary 14. You can go to the library, get a nice book or film and spend the evening with your­self or friends and family.

And if you’d like to get into a ‘love-your­self-mode’, lis­ten to this song:

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