By the beginning of January, the annual Valentine’s Day craze has begun. It starts out slowly: a commercial here and there promoting sales at retail stores, or the best place to buy a box of chocolates without breaking the bank. Women in long-term relationships stare wistfully at engagement rings in store windows and drop hints to their significant others of where they’d like to go for dinner on Feb. 14.
Valentine’s Day began as a celebration of the life of St. Valentine. Valentine performed secret marriages for young men and women following Roman Emperor Claudius II’s decree that men were no longer allowed to marry because he believed they would make better soldiers if they didn’t have the distraction of wives and families. In today’s society, the holiday is typically commemorated by romantic gestures exchanged between significant others, including cards, presents and dinners.
The question is, when did the “most romantic day of the year” turn into a business strategy used to capitalize on a guilt-driven desire to please our significant others? When did we base the genuineness of our relationships on the gifts we receive on Valentine’s Day?
According to Statistic Brain, approximately 53 percent of women said they would end their relationship if they did not receive a gift from their significant other on Valentine’s Day. As the day becomes increasingly controlled by the industries of America, any sense of affection and surprise that may have existed in the holiday has run out.
In 2016, Americans spent $19.7 billion on Valentine’s Day, according to fundivo.com, a website for small businesses. In recent years Valentine’s Day has become the epitome of Hallmark commercialization, and grows more so as time goes on.
However, we can still change the Valentine’s Day expectations handed down year after year. Instead of using the holiday as an opportunity to shower our significant others with expensive dinners and presents, Valentine’s Day can be celebrated by sharing love with everyone in our lives. This could mean sending flowers to your parents, writing a nice card for your roommate or performing small acts of kindness for strangers who you come across throughout the day. Small gestures such as holding the door or paying for a random table’s meal in a restaurant can go a long way in making someone feel cared for.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and are not representative of The Slate or its staff as a whole.