By Valentine’s Day morning it was predicted that over $18 billion would be spent on the day. Approximately $130 was predicted to be be spent per person participating in the holiday. By tradition, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love. That being said, in 2012, pet owners spent an average of $4.52 for their furry friends on Valentine’s Day. This amount can feed a starving child in an underdeveloped country for a week. As cute and as cuddly as pets may be, perhaps where we’re placing our money is a significant statement to our definition of love. I am not one to quickly label myself as a romantic by any means, and could soapbox about Valentine’s Day for a variety of reasons; however, I also see the merit in the holiday. Originally named after a Catholic martyr, about whom we don’t have extensive information, Valentine’s Day was a Christian holiday that was celebrated in order to counteract traditional pagan festivals happening at the time. The holiday marked the beginning of the birds’ mating season, hence the developing emphasis on romance. Now highly secularized, Valentine’s Day is a unifying celebration of love, regardless of religion, culture, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and so forth. Love is an intangible unifying force.
Yet if an outsider were to merely observe Valentine’s Day in our society, I am not convinced that he or she would not see just an utter celebration of materialism. The chocolate, the roses, the cards, the jewelry, the dates, the trinkets, the doilies, the boxes of Valentines that have every 7-year-old’s favorite superheroes on them—the list does not end.
Gifts can be thoughtful and fun expressions of love, but should not define it. Valentine’s Day oversimplifies the complexity of relationships. “Just buy her some flowers,” might save a desperate boyfriend briefly, but love cannot be bought. It cannot be retained to one specific day of the year. It doesn’t fit into a box of chocolates and it’s more expensive than a diamond ring.
Now Valentine’s Day is over; for some of us this isn’t a reason to grieve. But genuine, actual love—be that romantic, friendly, or familial—runs so much deeper than a date on the calendar. It doesn’t come with a receipt. Love in itself is a gift, the gift that we should be celebrating just as enthusiastically on February 15 as we did the day before.
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