Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

We’ve been conditioned to hate Valentine’s Day

Our current practice of Valentine’s Day is rooted in practices of overconsumption with a narrow view of love, and it’s not sustainable
Will Katcher
Daily Collegian (2018)

Valentine’s Day was one of my favorite holidays before I had anyone to spend it with romantically. When I was little, I remember sitting at the table crafting valentines with my family, baking cakes and cookies and being given a book for the special occasion. I took my fond memories of elementary school mailboxes and brought it with me to high school and college– whether it was handing out little, pink origami stars or ridiculous CVS Valentine boxes. While my enjoyment of Valentine’s Day has remained consistent despite my changing relationship status, many would gladly see it removed from the calendar. And this hate is not without good reason.

Today, Valentine’s Day is largely a marketing scheme catered toward romantic relationships. Once mid-January hits, every store across the country shoves an array of chocolate companies down your throat while social media touts its carousel of dating apps and couple gift guides. Advertisements catered to those without partners during the holiday push messages like “hang in there,” and “we know this time of year is tough,” reinforcing the idea being single equates to sadness. Even when businesses break away from this manufactured depression, they convince you to name a cricket after your ex so you have the chance to feed it to a snake.

One could say Valentine’s Day isn’t about who buys the biggest gift or how many cockroaches named Josh get fed to a snake, but honestly, we don’t really know much about the meaning of the day in general. Originally, Valentine’s Day was a day for feasting across various Christian denominations in honor of the martyrdom of Saint Valentine. However, historians and theologists today don’t know what to make of either the man or the holiday.

There are records of three different St. Valentine’s, all with a history of martyrdom, and each have a drastically different story associated with them. Even the story of the St. Valentine we associate with the holiday—supposedly a man who officiated Christian weddings and healed the sight of a jailer’s daughter—has multiple versions. His legend has become so misconstrued that the General Roman Catholic Calendar had the holiday removed, citing that there is no evidence that this man had any romantic associations or of his having died a martyr. All we know is where he died and when: on the Via Flaminia on February 14th.

Of course, some have tried connecting the holiday to earlier pagan holidays and traditions that held some inclination to romance, but most of these postulations have been ruled out. What we do know of the holiday is its rise in popularity in the 19th century. After “The Young Man’s Valentine Writer” was printed under a British publisher—highlighting recommended poetry verses for men to recite to their lovers—verse cards rose to popularity. These cards of cute sketches and poetry were easily produced, so factories started mass producing them, earning the name “mechanical valentines.”  From there, Valentine’s Day was set down the path of commercialization. Yearly, the United States spends over $18.2 billion on an array of Valentine’s Day merchandise with the United Kingdom coming in second with nearly £1.9 billion. Love, or the lack of it, sells.

From its shaky origins to its current exploitation of people today, it seems there’s enough reason to drop the holiday entirely and move on. However, I still feel that Valentine’s Day has a lot of potential. It’s important to celebrate and take time to appreciate the people we love in life; it doesn’t have to be a solely romantic focus. There are so many different relationships we form over the course of our lives that are all worth celebrating. Many countries, such as Finland and Mexico, have already adopted these practices, with the holiday more oriented towards family, friends and teachers alongside romantic partnerships. We’re even beginning to see more “galentine” and “palentine” celebrations here in America, an encouraging shift towards celebrating friendship with small gifts and homemade treats.

I see a lot of people bitter towards the idea of Valentine’s Day, put out by the need to spend and second guessing what the “right” gifts are. Our current Valentine’s Day practices are not sustainable, nor will they have any positive impact on our mental health. If we want to enjoy Valentine’s Day, we need to broaden our outlook on what love is beyond just the romantic and turn away from the overconsumption and oversaturation we’re currently engaged in.

Hailey Furilla can be reached at [email protected].

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