Valentine’s Day – or Saint Valentine’s Day – was originally a day where lovers (or those courting love) would exchange notes, in the form of “Valentines”, the day’s name also deriving from the ancient Roman word “Valens” which means worthy, and from the Saint Valentine, whose feast is on the day we traditionally celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Commonly, it is said, flowers and chocolates were also regularly given on February 14th as well. It may have seemed an innocuous occasion in times gone by (though impassioned, meaningful and heartfelt – history says that the first Valentine’s card was sent by a knight being held captive in 1415 in the London Tower, to his wife) whereas nowadays, such a simple analogy of this time of year would almost seem laughable, due to Valentine’s day’s hugely, and increasingly commercial nature, magnified by some perceived importance for those already in a relationship.
According to Wikipedia, the U.S greeting card association says that around one billion Valentine’s cards alone are sent around the world each year. The amount of chocolates and candy bought and sold in some countries is even more ridiculous – the U.S market managing to make well over $1 billion in chocolate sales during Valentine’s.
With the almost perpetual increase and success of consumption at Christmas time, it’s no wonder that Valentine’s Day has become another lucrative, exploitable occasion for retailers and businesses alike, while becoming a more and more expensive venture for all its participants. – Apparently love can be quantified in pounds or dollars these days – how convenient!
Just as Christmas advertising (notably earlier and earlier each year) and the proliferation of specific Christmas time consumer products has also become greater, so have specialist Valentine’s money-grabbing ideas, packages, gimmicks, fads, products, services and deals.
As early as 1868, Richard Cadbury (sound familiar?) was introducing specific “Valentine’s Chocolates”. Card-making giant Hallmark can also boast of offering over 1330 Valentine’s cards, at this “loved up” time of year. – Loved up? Or is that “cashed up”? In a society of increasingly commercial consumerism, where success and prosperity is more and more determined by material wealth and dollar value, it is no wonder that surveys have proved that the majority of women in the U.S and the U.K would actually consider dumping their boyfriend if they didn’t receive a Valentine’s gift on February 14th. – Where’s the love gone?
Still looking, and still not feeling like you’ve spent enough money, Selfridges can offer you special Valentine’s day Marmite – laced with champagne (such a negligible amount you wont even notice) bearing special labels with monikers such as “spread love”, at a nicely inflated price. Or you can opt for jewellery designer Theo Fennell’s “Lover’s Marmite” with its engraved sterling silver lid, at a cost of £145. Maybe there’ll be matching toast in the years to come? Lick it off your partner’s skin I hear you say? – That would be promoting intimacy and romance, which goes against trends of consumption and spending, sorry.
For all the money being spent and gifts changing hands, surely it is time that creative, original gifts (rather than those that simply cost the most) gained popularity? Maybe we’re all just being dumbed down and made ignorant to the fact that our loved ones are just jumping on one massive money-hungry bandwagon and thoughtlessly contributing to the billions of red roses sold and delivered each year, for example. Time to spread love – not literally! – figuratively. Put your cash away, before the days (and months) leading to February 14th annoy us as much as those leading to December 25th.