The Price of Love: Have We Lost the Meaning of Valentine’s Day?

Emelia Crump, Staff Writer

Valentine’s Day: a love-based holiday symbolized by pink and red hearts, comically sized balloons and a rich assortment of chocolates. Stores’ favorite colors become pink in order to match patrons’ expectations, and teddy bears become more than just a child’s toy. It’s no wonder lovers look forward to such a materialistic holiday, but are the reasons Valentine’s day is celebrated influenced more by tangible objects, or actual love? 

U.S. interest in Valentine’s gifts over time. Source: Google Trends.

It’s human nature to desire gifts, especially if they’re received from loved ones. Giving one another thoughtful presents can give couples a sense of security in terms of where they stand, but an expensive diamond necklace is not the only way to say “I love you.” Today’s society is so fixated on the concept that gifts are the prime way to express affection, when in reality this isn’t accurate— love doesn’t have a price tag. 

Since the United States is such a consumeristic nation, stores and large corporations find any excuse they can to fish money out of individuals— more specifically, desperate individuals trying to please their other half on Valentine’s Day. Stores stock up with various Valentine’s-Day themed candies, line their shelves with ridiculous-sized stuffed animals adorned with heart patterns, and convert the card aisle to a bright pink. One is at risk of allergies due to the garden for sale: roses, tulips and peonies carefully arranged in vases, waiting to be placed in the living room. 

The Valentine’s Day aisle at Fair Lakes’ Target two days before Valentine’s Day. Photo by Vy Nguyen.

There’s a specific reason why retailers congest their department stores with an overwhelming amount of goods for the holidays: they stock impulse buys as a means to pressure customers into snatching that heart-shaped chocolate box off the shelf at the last minute. Because love relationships are strongly desired, most customers don’t want to put such priceless experiences in jeopardy. Desperate individuals will spend countless, fruitless dollars on a complex concept that can’t be fulfilled by something as simple as a teddy bear, and vendors take advantage of this. According to CNN, Americans are estimated to have spent nearly $24 billion this Valentine’s Day. That averages to around $175 spent per person. CNN also states that 54 percent of Americans break up if they’ve spent too much money, which proves that overspending really does scare off couples— spending $500 can be perceived as coming on too strong. Furthermore, when a patron takes their weekly trip to the grocery store, they’re also taking a trip to “guiltville” due to the constant reminders on shelves, taunting them because they haven’t bought anything for their significant other for Valentine’s Day. 

When individuals feel pressured to buy presents in order to please loved ones, it encourages unhealthy behavior. Yet most couples subconsciously expect to receive something because presents provide reassurance if a couple is unsure of where they stand. Although gifts can be a great way to strengthen connections, they should not be the staple way to express the importance of any relationship.

In conclusion, don’t let a price tag define what’s really important: the meaningful connection that’s shared between two people. After all, the complexity of love can’t be compared to a simple bouquet of roses or box of chocolates— and who knows? A warm hug or an “I love you,” is all your significant other might have been waiting for this Valentine’s Day.