It’s official – January is over and out – and from the longest month we’ve dived headlong into the shortest month. February, for many brands, can mean only one thing: Valentine’s Day. Like it or lump it, a day dedicated to showing the love for your partner or those dearest to you has become increasingly commercialised over the years. Indeed, the same goes for many other festivals and celebrations, be it the yearly Christmas TV advert war or the chocolate companies trying to outdo each other over the Easter period. While many people buy into the avalanche of cards, roses and chocolate on Valentine’s Day to show their love, it’s time we re-evaluated the importance of these fripperies and all that lurks beneath the red tissue paper.
The history behind St Valentine is unclear, with some claiming he helped to effectuate marriages forbidden under the decrees of Emperor Claudius II, while others suggest that it was a letter from a Roman prison signed off ‘from your Valentine’ that set the wheels in motion. When considered alongside the Roman festival Lupercalia in the middle of February, celebrating fertility and agriculture, Valentine’s Day is ultimately associated with bounteous unions that withstand difficult circumstances. This concept is applicable to unions beyond romantic ones, with ‘Galentine’s’ and ‘Palentine’s’ Days becoming ever popular as a means to cherish your platonic bonds.
A quick Google search on Valentine’s Day does indeed bring up articles on its history and meaning, but soon enough, adverts for everything from wine to lingerie start to creep onto the screen. You’d be hard-pressed to find a website which isn’t plastered with hearts and a red colour scheme, encouraging you to ‘show the ones you love that you love them’ by means of something edible, wearable or decorative. Don’t get me wrong – gifts can be truly meaningful, especially when personalised, and gift-giving is a love language for many. However, with the common formula of a soppy card and flowers or chocolates, it seems that modern society has equated love – an infinitely complex and powerful emotion – with transient commercial products.
Every year, we’re force-fed a sickly pink diet and conditioned to expect it from our partners, with each year being bigger and better than the one before. The same goes for Christmas and birthdays – Dudley Dursley’s complaint about only receiving 36 birthday present springs to mind – and all too easily we slip into a vicious spending circle. Indeed, Forbes predicted a $23.9 billion price tag for Valentine’s Day in 2022 – the then-highest amount on record – and added that many people go into debt during this time. With budgets tighter than ever, the time is ripe to step back and take stock.
It’s hardly surprising that recent years have seen an anti-Valentine’s Day movement emerging, with companies on Etsy creating cards reading ‘Happy unimaginative, consumerist & entirely arbitrary, manipulative & shallow interpretation of romance day’ among other cynical products. While such products arguably continue the mindless commercialisation surrounding the day, they nonetheless stimulate conversations about how to celebrate love in more everyday ways.
Personally, I’ll be celebrating Palentine’s Day this February 14th, taking the opportunity to spend quality time – not money – with my friends and cherish their company. Instead of letting store-bought products do the talking, I want to show my appreciation for them in my own words. Sadly, we often hear mourning partners, friends and families wishing they’d told their loved ones that they loved them more often, so take this article as your cue to do just that.
It’s time we reconsidered how we celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s a festival with a wonderful message of love at its heart (no pun intended), but this can be drowned out by the bells and whistles of marketing. Indeed, it’s a brilliant reminder to show our appreciation of the ones we love, but why limit this to one day per year? By all means, celebrate the day however you see fit, but carry those feelings forward with you, long after the heart-shaped chocolates have left the supermarket shelves.