Valentine’s Day: A Story of Commercialism

Every year around late January, every story all over the world turns a bright shade of pink. No, this is not pink with embarrassment; although considering the amount of brash buying and selling going on, maybe it should be!

Valentine’s Day is supposedly a day that is filled with love towards your significant other (or to spread feelings of loneliness to those without!) but there is less love going on than one might be led to believe. Unless of course you’re talking about the love of money, in which case it is one of the most loving holidays of the whole year!

The History

Valentine’s Day is unique among Catholic-inspired holidays in that the St. Valentine (And there’s not just one of him!) had little to do with romantic love or romance in general. St. Valentine was a martyr who died under the hands of the Roman empire for marrying soldiers together with wives illegally. This story is only a vague legend, and most early Christians did not believe this. So why did the early Christians celebrate his day on February 14th?

The most likely explanation is that Christians were trying to “Christianize” a pagan feast called Lupercalia, which was a celebration of fertility. However, the two got mixed up and the Christian feast ending up being more about fertility than celebrating a saint. Even then the propaganda ran hot.

However, the most definitive connection from St. Valentine to love was from British author Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote a poem that loosely connected “Valentines” to courtly love.

Valentine’s Day as we know it today, an exchange of courtly romantic love came about in the late 1700s. It became traditional be exchange anonymous notes with the girl or guy that you admired from afar, or your lady-love or gentleman-lover. An

And Then It All Went Down.

Around the 1910s, postage got WAY cheaper. It became much more feasible to send lots of postage all around the United States especially, which is where this holiday caught on like no one’s business. From the early days, money was the issue with Valentine’s Day. Card companies made huge amounts of money every year around this time, selling anonymous declarations of love printed on high-quality, laminated paper.

Other Commercial Opportunities

Let’s be fair here: industry would collapse if some things were not commercialized. Commercialization is not an evil in and of itself, but to believe a holiday is ALL about love when it is not is just willful ignorance. And there is a more sinister side to all of this:

The Chocolate.

You think I’m kidding. And to be fair on the other side, what i’m about to say is not ALWAYS true. But you cannot deny that much of the chocolate from today’s market is not fair trade and takes advantage of underpaid, overworked employees from other countries. Nothing says romance like making other people work for your chocolaty enjoyment! In all seriousness, Valentine’s Day gives a huge boost to companies that take advantage of underpaid workers. And that is not at all moral or romantic. This part of Valentine’s Day that few people think of is a real part of why Valentine’s Day needs to be given a second thought in many cases.

Also, the flowers around Valentine’s Day get quite exorbitant. Normally in the US a dozen roses of good quality costs around $12, give or take a bit. Around Valentine’s Day that same bunch can run around $35 or more. That right there is a classic example of commercialization at its finest… Almost a 300% increase in profit. Now, there is nothing immoral about a company making money, as long as that company is doing it ethically and without abusing ANYONE connected to it. However, the mere fact that you can get away with tripling the costs of roses just goes to show you that people spend WAY too much around this time of year. Which brings us to the most important part about this whole discussion:

What Is Love?

I know, I know… “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more, no more…” But seriously. Valentine’s Day is supposed to be all about love, and the love that you have about your partner. Unless you just wanna get laid, in which case the following argument STILL has merit for you. It is an artificial creation of the market that a day for “love” be on February 14th of every year. If you truly love someone, there should not be a day of the year that is dedicated to celebrating the love between you. Shouldn’t every day be a day that celebrates how much you love each other?

I’m not suggesting a massive retaliation against the free market, and crying for everyone to take up arms against Valentine’s Day. However, it is good to think about why we do the things we do and celebrate the things that we do… And spend money on what we do. Do we spend hundreds of dollars on Valentine’s Day because we love someone, or because that’s just “what people do?” What CAN be 100% confirmed is that Valentine’s Day means money for many companies, and the people tend to spend huge wads of cash every time February rolls around. I guess that’s the big question… What is the best way for you to show love to your partner?

About Caleb Smith

Caleb is a freelance writer and music student from the United States, with a passion for comic books, reading, and punk rock. He loves writing about often overlooked and under-reported stories to help raise awareness.

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