According to a statistic tracking Valentine’s Day sales, the holiday brought in a revenue of roughly $20 million in 2018. This raises the age-old question: is Valentine’s Day simply a holiday crafted by card and flower companies as a means to increase sales? While it sure appears to be the case in modern times, it is important to remember the history of the holiday and what makes it special.
In the third century A.D., Emperor Claudius II banned marriage among his people because of his belief that it made them weaker soldiers. One of his Roman priests, St. Valentine, saw this as unfair and began marrying the soldiers in secret. When word got out about his actions, St. Valentine was sentenced to jail.
Funnily enough, during his time in jail he himself fell in love when he met the jailer’s daughter. As this was strongly forbidden, St. Valentine was sentenced to death on Feb. 14. Before his execution he sent a love letter to the jailer’s daughter signed “your Valentine.”
After this, the first actual Valentine’s Day was celebrated in the fifth century as part of the Lupercalia festival that signified the beginnings of spring. Over time, the holiday became a day in which people show their love for each other and express their gratitude.
It is no secret that companies have capitalized on this and created the tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day love through flowers, chocolates, and jewelry, turning the holiday into a big money-making event. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend and average of $161 on Valentine’s-related items.
With 51 percent of the U.S. population expected to celebrate Valentine’s Day, it is clear to see how this holiday easily generates a large amount of revenue. Preparation starts as early as January when you can see pink heart balloons lining the aisles of every grocery and department store. Reservations for dinner are made weeks in advance, and jewelry sales always increase.
But even as the holiday itself is commercialized in modern times, that doesn’t take away from the meaning and spirit of Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day is all about spreading and showing love in any form possible. Many people look forward to this one night to have a special dinner with their partner, go to the movies, or just enjoy the company of close friends. It has even become a trend to celebrate “Galentine’s Day” (inspired by the TV show “Parks and Recreation”) on Feb. 13 with close friends while spending the night pampering each other despite the lack of romantic love.
The commercialization of Valentine’s Day should not take away from the experiences that many anticipate for weeks. It is a day that many look forward to, and if they choose to celebrate it through the purchase of flowers and chocolates than that is totally okay. Valentine’s Day may have become a corporate scheme in modern times, but the traditions and values of the holiday have lingered.