The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Before you think I’m just salty and single, let me get this straight: though I don’t like to admit it, I’m a hopeless romantic. I’m a sucker for the roses, chocolates, cards, and the stuffed animals holding heart-shaped gummy candies at CVS. I’m not saying those things can’t be cute, or meaningful, but I think it’s important for all of us to be conscious of how and why we’re spending our money.
Believe it or not, Valentine’s Day wasn’t always a capitalist scam. Crazy, right? Now, before we get into specifics, let’s briefly jump into some history about how we even got here:
269 A.D. – St. Valentine is killed in Rome.
We don’t know a lot about St. Valentine’s legacy and background, but historians believe that St. Valentine was a priest or a bishop who performed secret Christian weddings in 3rd century Rome, when Christians were being persecuted. St. Valentine was said to be imprisoned for refusing to worship the Roman gods, and his prayers while in jail are said to have cured a prisoner’s daughter of blindness. When he was taken to be executed, it is believed that he left her note that was signed, ‘Your Valentine’.
1382 A.D. – Parlemant of Foules is written by Geoffrey Chaucer.
This piece is the first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love. Now, does this mean we can designate Geoffrey Chaucer as the O.G. simp? Perhaps, but I’m no history major, so not my department.
1600 A.D. – Hamlet is written by William Shakespeare
This piece includes a reference to ‘Saint Valentine’s Day’.
To capitalize, or not to capitalize, that is the question.
1613 A.D. – Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James I of England, weds Frederick V, King of Bohemia
Another reference made to Valentine’s Day! How exciting. Elizabeth and Frederick’s marriage was widely celebrated. John Donne, an English poet, wrote Epithalamion Vpon Frederick Count Palatine and the Lady Elizabeth married on St. Valentines Day to celebrate the couple getting married. Sounds like fanfiction if you ask me.
1835 A.D. – 60,000 Valentine’s Day cards are sent in the United Kingdom.
Cards began to be produced in factories, and they were decorated with fabric and lace. Thousands of cards were sent despite the high expense of sending letters and cards. And onward, with capitalism!
1840 A.D. – Sir Rowland Hill reforms the United Kingdom’s postal service.
Postal rates are drastically reduced throughout the United Kingdom, allowing for increased access to the postal service. In 1841, 400,00 Valentine’s Day cards were sent in the United Kingdom. As postal rates decreased and postal stamps were invented, it also allowed for letters to be anonymous. This also caused letters to be more… R-rated.
1868 A.D. – Cadbury introduces heart-shaped boxes.
Cadbury created filled chocolates in heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day. The focus of Valentine’s Day shifted from letters, poetry, and writing, to chocolates, flowers, jewelry, and other gifts. In other words, shifting from inexpensive and meaningful to capitalism, capitalism, capitalism, and other forms of capitalism.
In 2022 alone, Valentine’s Day spending is expected to reach $23.9 billion. The average American is expected to spend $175.41 on their romantic gifts. The prices of romantic gifts and the over-commercialization of the holiday has allowed big corporations to feed off of consumer’s money.
Before you deem me the Valentine’s Day Grinch, hear me out. Do you really need to spend all that money? I’m not here to debate the efficiency of capitalism, or the meaningfulness of Valentine’s Day, I’m just asking you to be more aware, and to think. We’ve gone from writing poetry and letters, to buying $60 promise rings or $40 life-sized teddy bears. You have 364 other days to celebrate and appreciate your friends and family–-do you need to do it during a time when roses and chocolates are overpriced? If you’re asking me, I say wait until the clearance sales come around.
With that, all I have for you is, well, Happy Valentine’s Day. Until next time, goodbye, adios, au revoir, salam, and adieu!