Valentine’s Day: A Holiday of Capital
I am a hopeless romantic and I love those candy conversation hearts, so you’d think I’d love Valentine’s Day.
While I appreciate the sentiment behind the day, I also think it is ultimately a celebration of capitalism that often overshadows the celebration of love. There are candies, cards, and flowers purchased and gifted away, sometimes sincerely and sometimes not. Those tangible things may be nice at the moment, but really emphasize the materialistic culture that we live in.
The history of Valentine’s Day is a little fuzzy. Some believe it was placed in February to commemorate the death and burial of St. Valentine. Others say it was an attempt to “Christianize” the pagan holiday, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day at the end of the fifth century, though it was not associated with love until much later. However, one thing is certain: the true motivation for the holiday is a celebration of love. Nowadays, especially with social media, the supposed celebration of love has shifted into a performative holiday that contributes to capitalism.
Regardless of your relationship status, it’s impossible to escape Valentine’s Day. Right after New Years, most stores switch from holiday festiveness to red, pink, and full of hearts. Maybe all you wanted was to buy some eggs for your breakfast tomorrow but then you turn around and see stacks of heart shaped boxes of chocolate and dozens of pink and red flower bouquets. According to CNBC, each American spent $142 for Valentine’s Day gifts on average in 2020. There is gender disparity in the amount of money spent, with men spending an average of $249 and women only spending $57. The estimated value of Valentine’s Day spending is $27.4 billion. The extreme amount of money we spend for this holiday highlights how much we rely on tangible items and gifts.
Don’t get me wrong—I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving gifts. Some people’s love language involves receiving or giving gifts, in which case it is valid to spend money on tangible things. Personally, I’d rather pay for experiences, like trips or outings, over physical items. February 14 comes and goes every year and it’s supposed to be a celebration of love. By the end of the month, the chocolates and candies will have been eaten, the flowers will have died, and the Hallmark cards will have been thrown away. It’s the sentiments, experiences, dreams, and laughs that last. The issue with spending all this money on Valentine’s Day is that the feelings and real love gets lost. And what about the rest of the year? Isn’t it more special to receive flowers or chocolates or even romantic experiences on a random day of the year than it is to save all your romance for one day?
It’s important to take a step back and look at how we celebrate love in our lives. There are so many different kinds of love to celebrate. Every year since I was a little girl, my parents gave my siblings and me a little gift on Valentine’s Day. I love sending roses to best friends from the annual PromCom Valentine’s flower fundraiser at Hopkins. Of course, I appreciate the opportunity to remind myself and others that I love them. We don’t, however, need to flush our money away to celebrate it on Valentine’s Day; seeking out experiences, memories, and beautiful moments is far more special any day of the year.