Take back St. Valentine’s Day from Hallmark and Hershey’s.

by Paul Michael on 14 February 2008 7 comments
Photo: Sister72

Today is St. Valentine’s Day. Delivery vans filled with flowers are passing each other on the highways; the supermarket aisles filled with pink and red cards are chock full of men and women, frantically buying that last-minute love note. And I have to wonder…why do we bother?

I knew very little about St. Valentine’s Day so I did some digging around at the library and on the Internet. I won’t bore you with all of the details, so here’s a brief summary in spectacular bullet-point style:

  • Many Christian martyrs were called Valentine.
  • Up until around 40 years ago, there were 11 (yes 11) Valentine’s Days recognized by the Catholic Church.
  • Prior to the works of Chaucer, no link between love and the Valentine Saints existed.
  • St. Valentine’s Day has appeared in Shakespeare plays.
  • The current day revolves around the legend of a priest named Valentine and Roman Emperor Claudius II. Claudius wanted young men to remain single, Valentine secretly performed marriages and was executed. A note he left to his beloved, the jailer’s daughter, read “From Your Valentine.”

So, that’s the brief, brief history of the day. But now, as with most holidays in the world, corporate interests are heavily invested in capitalizing on this day. Expensive cards, flowers, chocolates, little teddy bears, lingerie, teddy bears wearing lingerie and holding chocolates, you name it, there’s a tacky gift with a heart on it.

And that made me wonder, is this day at all necessary? After all, why do we need a special day to remind our true love that we do indeed love them? Listening to the radio this morning, I heard a caller say that men need this day to remind us to do something special for our partner, or we’d just not bother. Does that mean we’re paying the price for our laziness through cards and flowers? Can’t we do better?

Cards
St. Valentine's Day cards for Mom, Dad, Sister, Cousin, Dog, Cat and backyard squirrel.

What has also disturbed me is the vast number of people now eligible to receive a St. Valentine’s Day card or gift. Now, when I was in Britain seven years ago, St. Valentine’s Day was a celebration of romance. Couples and would-be lovers would send cards to each other. But now, you can wish your grandma, your niece or your best friend a Happy Valentine’s Day. Seriously, why? It was bad enough that large corporations had hijacked this holiday for lovers, but now they’ve expanded it to include everyone on the planet.

However, being a realist I’m well aware that St. Valentine’s Day is here to stay. But, as the mighty consumer we have the power to take it back. Reject the card companies, forget the flowers, kiss goodbye to the Hershey’s kisses. Instead, do something that takes more thought and less money.

One year, I found a small craft box for a few dollars. I painted it burgundy and filled it with small notes, each one endorsed with a small phrase about why I loved my wife. The notes were tied with ribbon, the whole cost of the project was around $6. And it’s one of my wife’s most treasured possessions, still taking pride of place on the dresser some 5 years later.

The point is, I think this day allows us to be lazy. It’s easy to order flowers or gifts, it’s simple to sign your name at the bottom of a $5 card. But we can all do better if we try, giving more of our true love to our partners and a lot less of our hard-earned money to places like Hallmark and Hershey’s in the process.

Additional photo credit: Michael L
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Guest's picture
martha in mobile

I'm making my family's favorite dinner: pot roast, garlic mashed potatoes, artichokes and a molten chocolate dessert. My husband and I will be too full for any friskiness, and he will snore all night from overeating. I will end up on the couch with the cat. But still, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Happy Valentine's Day!

Guest's picture

I believe if you make the effort to do small, thoughtful things for each other on a regular basis, not only will you save money, but you'll be much happier in your relationship.

I think Valentine's Day is an awful holiday... you mentioned that it may be making men lazy, but I think it could also abet women not making an effort to notice all the other times their sweetie does wonderful things for them. Note to us all: don't put all your emotional eggs on one day's basket!

(btw, I'm female)

Guest's picture
Lindsay

I hate the paper waste that goes along with cards, so I've "sent" ecards this year. They're free and I've managed to find some without horribly tacky graphics.

hipstercards.com
http://www.cardcow.com/
http://ecard.digiart.ee

Guest's picture

I think Valentine's Day has taken hold because it falls in the time of year when we all need a little more Venus/Aphrodite in our lives. Beauty and lust, transformation and beguilement. Winter has made realists of us all, in black and white. Flowers, sweets, champagne, the color red. But you're right--we don't need Hallmark to honor these, and mediocre chocolate in a heart-shaped box is still mediocre chocolate. Maybe we can find more original and satisfying ways to make things "juicy" again.

Guest's picture
Bo

I looked up Saint Valentine's Day this morning, wondering what had happened to the Saint part. You are right. It belongs to the Greeting Card Assn.
My husband and I refuse to play. No cards, chocolates or diamonds. But we are cooking a 'gourmet' dinner tonight - at home, by ourselves. A good way to begin celebrating any evening with your love.

Guest's picture
Shane

After watching the Food Networks "Chocolate Marathon" last weekend, I was buying into the idea I needed to lavishly spend money on Valentine's Day. I searched the websites, trying to find that perfect gift. I decided upon a box filled with 12 chocolate-dipped strawberries, for 50-dollars! But as my cursor hovered over the "proceed with purchase" button, I thought what the heck am I doing? I canceled the order, and proceeded to my nearest grocery store. At the store, I grabbed 2 high-end chocolate bars and, to my surprise, the store clerk was stocking fresh strawberries. I only spent 15 dollars. Simply asking “what am I doing” saved me 35 bucks, and my wife and I had a fun evening making chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

My hubby read my post on Wise Bread about cheap Valentine's day and he's cooking for me!! I'm super excited!!!  He's making risotto and ravioli.....