OPINION: Can’t buy me love

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From the Martyrdom of a saint, to the appropriation of the Roman Lupercalia and the courts of medieval Europe, Valentine’s Day has a long and storied history, little of which is present in the modern day. Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents Day and more, Valentine’s Day is what many have coined to be “Hallmark holidays.”

Hallmark insists that “while we’re honored that people so closely link the Hallmark name with celebrations and special occasions, we can’t take credit for creating holidays,” but even so, it is difficult not to notice the out-sized influence such corporations have on days like these. Greeting cards, assorted chocolate boxes and prepackaged flowers, mark Valentine’s day as a celebration of consumerism as much as it is of love.

According to the National Review Federation, Americans will spend roughly $21.8 billion on Valentine’s Day alone, just narrowly outpacing Zimbabwe’s yearly GDP. This is, to put it bluntly, an absolutely enormous sum of money. Given the sheer enormity of the capital spent on this day, it is reasonable to ask whether this is truly a worthy investment.

On one hand, such lavish spending accompanied by such a negligent economic, much less societal, benefit can only be seen as inherently wasteful. Billions of dollars that could easily be better spent on charity, medical research, infrastructure and more is thrown away on an assortment of ultimately meaningless and overpriced heart shaped candy and holiday themed trinkets or sweets.

 While, of course, these gifts will be appreciated, most are unlikely to become cherished possession or memories. Cards will be thrown away, half eaten chocolate boxes will be left out and flowers will wither and die. For most, the day will be fleeting and costly, while a few corporations will make billions off of what many feel to be an obligation rather than a genuine expression of love.

On the other hand, it is hard not to see the innocent nature of this situation. So eager are we to show our affections to those we love, that we are willing to give into what we would otherwise assume to be a scam without so much as a second thought. In many ways this presents Valentie’s day as a celebration of both our flaws and vitures.

It is with both these ideas in mind that I would caution against both cynicism and unnecessary adoration. No, Valentine’s Day is not the purest expression of love, but it’s not just a corporate money grab either. This year we should remember that what’s most expensive isn’t necessarily the most heartfelt. We shouldn’t give up this opportunity to celebrate those we love either.