According to a statistic tracking Valentine’s Day sales, the commercial holiday brought in a revenue of roughly $20 million in the U.S. alone in 2018. With the current cost of living crisis, are people less likely to splurge on their partner/themselves for Valentine’s? Does Valentine’s Day have any meaning anymore or does it only have commercial value? Natalie Howarth discusses.
While it is like a day to celebrate loved ones such as friends, family and partners, it can be a tough, commercialised holiday that is seemingly unavoidable not just on the day of February 14th but also leading up to the day. Valentine’s Day has transformed into a day of corporate greed that permeates our culture; if you go on social media, there is no doubt there will be a post from a friend whose partner has gone all out and spent hundreds of pounds on expensive jewellery or a meal at an expensive restaurant. A day where couples occupy every social media timeline, it is hard to not feel bound by lots of comparisons and consequently poses the question of whether impressive gestures are necessary, as they set a precedent for expectations that are not always attainable and may cause more harm to a relationship. Is it really necessary to quantify love through material goods?
There is a lot of pressure on one day of the year to manifest and validate your love for your partner
As a capitalist construct, there is a lot of pressure on one day of the year to manifest and validate your love for your partner. With rampant advertisements encouraging materialism in the run up to the day, there is often pressures to overbuy; if a relationship is built on the need to impress each other with expensive gifts, then it is an unsustainable and sometimes unethical relationship. An occasion of commerciality that has shaped modern love, the origins of the day itself are quite dark, as it was initially the celebration of the execution of two men named Valentine, who would become martyrs during the Roman Empire. It makes you wonder how it remains so culturally significant when the premise of a relationship is to show each other love on a regular basis.
While it is a day can be financially wasteful, there are environmental repercussions in the grandiosity of gifts: according to Oxfam America, Valentine’s sales of gold jewellery in America will result in more than 34 million metric tons of waste worldwide. This is because of the demand and pressure from consumers imposed on the gold mining industry, an unethical and unsustainable industry known for its threat to human rights, including child labour and the removal of communities from their houses. The act of mining itself releases the most toxic heavy metals that pollutes the air and water, costing an unimaginable amount of money to treat. With more demand for jewellery around this time, rather than spending hundreds of dollars on something that is not worth the environmental consequences, it would be best to save your money!
A day that has an air of obligatory consumerism can be difficult for those who are budgeting
With the cost-of-living crisis at the forefront of many people’s consciousness, the tradition of Valentine’s Day and spending money on a loved one can be a privilege. A day that has an air of obligatory consumerism can be difficult for those who are budgeting or simply cannot afford to treat their partner and the constant flow of advertisement feeds into consumer’s guilt: is this because of the inherent societal expectations reflected in different forms of media, including film and television? Arguably, modern television and film has tainted the perception of love with over-indulgence and the expectations of Valentine’s Day, and being gifted with an expensive piece of jewellery, for example. In the current economic sphere, not everyone will have the chance to splurge on gifts, but experiences are better than material goods: fortunately, Nottingham has a range of free activities from walks around Wollaton Park to the exhibitions at the Nottingham Contemporary.
Love cannot be quantified; it’s another day to fuel the industry, allowing big business corporations to profit off your money. Although it is nice to feel loved through the transaction of gifts, flowers and chocolates, it doesn’t instantly resolve a broken relationship and spending time with a loved one is much better than contributing to profit-oriented, materialised day.
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