Valentine’s Day: Capitalist scheme or romantic day of love? An outdated tradition?

Image by Darien Funk

Since when does true love equal fluffy teddy bears, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, and copious amounts of flowers? Have we lost the true meaning of Valentine’s Day and replaced authentic love with dollar signs? 

Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for celebrating love any day of the year. But how did we get to the point where even this modern holiday is over-commercialized? Is Valentine’s Day outdated? 

Let’s go back to the beginning.

The exact history of this day is quite cloudy, but can be traced back to the third century when St. Valentine (the name of one or two Christian martyrs) died. According to legend, St. Valentine was a priest who was marrying Christian couples in secret. When Emperor Claudius II found out, he had him beheaded. 

Since then, Valentine has gone on to become the patron saint of love, young people, and marriages. Apparently, St. Valentine had also befriended (or was dating, depending on which legend you seek) the jailer’s daughter, signing his last letter with, ‘love, your Valentine.” If legend has it, this is possibly the most heartfelt foundation for such a day—to fight for love even in the most precarious of times.

As we all find ourselves in a pandemic, we might be able to relate to a different type of precarious time. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics just last month, 52 per cent of U.S. adults are planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, spending a total of $21.8 billion. 

Furthermore, around 73 per cent of consumers celebrating Valentine’s Day this year still feel the importance of giving gifts, despite the pandemic. Is this a display of our addiction to material accumulation, or our commitment to showing love in even the darkest of times?

While large conglomerates have capitalized on this day and are profiting billions of dollars, I still don’t believe that Valentine’s Day is outdated. A chance to celebrate love in any way, shape, or form sounds good to me! Just because businesses profit off of our love, doesn’t mean it should change the way that we celebrate one another. 

Valentine’s doesn’t have to be just about romantic love, either. While this day is normally seen as a day of romance, we’ve seen a move towards “Galentine’s” day and simply celebrating the love we have for our friends and family. Individuals are increasingly acknowledging that we do not need romantic love to fulfill us, and are recognizing the importance in the loved ones that we DO have.

However, what I do think needs to change is the mindless consumerism and unsustainable ways in which we buy products. I think of large businesses churning out millions of heart-shaped chocolates, billions of flowers being shipped across the world, or even single-use clothing pieces, and can’t help but think about the environmental and wage labour impacts these have. 

A better alternative? Shopping local! Especially in these COVID-19 times, showing our support towards small businesses will help boost the local economy as desperately needed. 

We need to be more ethical in our buying and make sure our motivations aren’t peer- pressured, but the knowledge that our loved ones will appreciate and use their gifts. 

While this day, like most of our lives, seems to have been taken over by consumerist marketing that claims we need more material things to gain greater happiness – it is always a good day to celebrate love. 

No matter how you’re spending your Valentine’s this year, you do you. It’s only outdated if you declare it to be! 

If you want to rage against the capitalist system and cancel this holiday — all the power to you. 

If you want to love it up with your partner and indulge in all the sweet, sappy, cheesiness you can — just make sure you do it in private! (Kidding. I love seeing love. If you ever need to dish romantic stories, I’m here for it.) 

Or, if you’re choosing to spend this day lavishing in singleness and the love of friends and family around you -— heck yeah!

So, has Valentine’s Day become over-commercialized, over-romanticized and a bit cringy at times? Absolutely. 

But is it inherently superficial? Only if we choose it to be.

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