Valentine’s Day: Which Came First? The Marketing or the Holiday?
One February day in the late 3rd century, a Roman priest named St. Valentine was martyred for performing marriage ceremonies in secret after Emperor Claudius II declared them illegal. He may have also been martyred for writing love letters to the daughter of a prison guard or for helping Christians escape the harsh confines of Roman prisons.
The origins of St. Valentine’s Day may be shrouded in mystery, but its outcome is clearly profitable. Due to great advancements in printing technology and cheap postage (no postage if you like E-Cards), Valentine’s Day has become the second largest card-sending holiday besides Christmas. According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately 85% of these are purchased by women, while the bulk of flower purchases are made by men.
With slogans like “Love is a special occasion” and “There’s nothing so capable of expressing love than roses”, Hallmark and 1-800-Flowers are perhaps the most widely recognized holiday capitalists. They even market to the men who don’t realize what day it is until they get home from work: “Stuck in the Valentine’s doghouse? Get out with a WOW!”, or “So beautiful, she won’t mind they’re late.”
Companies are also marketing to the singles sector with t-shirts, ‘survival guide’ books, and large sponsored events. It’s ironic that even the V-Day pessimists can’t escape the far-reaching arm of commercialism.
So whether you believe in the true meaning of the holiday, you hate the holiday and stay home watching anti-love movies, or you just like to take advantage the after-holiday candy discounts, Valentine’s Day is not “just a bunch of marketing” as so many skeptics claim. After all, marketing wouldn’t exist without a market to perceive the holiday as valuable.
The trick is to be mindful of any social or environmental impact your Valentine’s purchases have. Buy recycled cards, make your own, and avoid buying mass-produced chocolates and teddy bears. So go ahead and love and be loved. Just be sure to support your local flower shop.