Just as soon as we thought we were free of holiday gift-giving stress, Valentine’s Day reared its ugly head and reminded us to buy only the best gifts for our significant others.
Valentine’s Day is considered the most romantic holiday of the year, but it is nothing more than a scam used to trick consumers into expressing love through commodities.
This year, Americans are expected to spend more than $27.4 billion on Valentine’s Day, or $196 per person, up 32 percent from the previous year, The New York Times reported.
If romance was truly valued over greed on Valentine’s Day, it wouldn’t be a struggle to choose which pre-written poem most accurately defines a relationship.
Not only is Valentine’s Day a capitalistic holiday, but it is a sexist and heteronormative one as well.
The history of Valentine’s Day has pagan and Christian roots. The Roman fertility festival Lupercalia was celebrated on Feb. 15 until the fifth century. Legend has it that priests would gently slap young maidens with the hide of a sacrificial goat, and bachelors would pick one of the women’s names out of an urn to be matched with her, according to the History Channel.
Saint Valentine, a third-century priest, was martyred on Feb. 14 by Claudius II for helping a Christian couple wed. He was recognized as the patron Saint of Lovers by the Catholic Church, according to the History Channel.
About a thousand years later, Geoffrey Chaucer declared February would be the feast of St. Valentinus. Birds mated in February, and soon, English nobility began sending love letters during the month.
What started as handwritten poems eventually turned into mass-produced, pre-written cards, The Smithsonian Magazine reported.
Valentine’s Day, even in its early days, promoted sexist values. And in the midst of marketing Valentine’s Day gifts as true love, our screens are inundated with jewelry advertisements, almost always featuring a straight couple.
I see a lack of queer relationship representation in card giving as well, as companies produce few queer-friendly Valentine’s Day cards.
Immediately after Christmas, the miniature trees and holiday candy on store shelves are replaced with heart-shaped jewelry and chocolate heart boxes.
Kathryn Reinert, a senior theater major, works in a grocery store.
“I’m working in the floral section for two days leading up to Valentine’s Day and it looks like a wrestling ring,” Reinert said. “They have ‘great sales’ and huge quantities just to entice people to buy more.”
While some may be aware that Valentine’s Day is a bigger celebration of consumerism than love, we are still often pressured by social media into giving gifts to prove our affection.
“I do feel like it’s a fake holiday designed to get people to spend money unnecessarily,” said Jess Barker, a senior public health major. “However, the romantic in me still wants my boyfriend to get me a gift.”
This year, the “best” gifts included sleepwear, household items like a speaker and a personalized cutting board and jewelry, according to Country Living Magazine.
Celebrating love and relationships should not come with the obligation to purchase material goods. The validity of the relationship should not be measured by the size of a bouquet of red roses.
Valentine’s Day is marketed as a day of love, but in reality we are being manipulated by corporations that profit off of our gullibility. By engaging in the typical romantic traditions, we only continue to reinforce materialism.
Instead of focusing on one day, consider the little things that make your relationship great year-round. The emphasis on Valentine’s Day adds unnecessary stress and commotion.
Couples should make new memories, not exchange items to signify how well they know each other, Julia McGhean, a circulation technician who lives on 17th Street near Montrose Street, said.
“You’re expected to go above and beyond to show you care about someone without taking into account what you do for each other on a daily basis,” McGhean said.
Rather than spending an obscene amount of money on something they don’t need, students should spend a more intimate evening with their partners and celebrate their relationship without the validation of others.