Why Valentine’s Day is not “marketing bullshit”

This time of year, a lot of grumpy gits come out of the woodwork to complain about the international love holiday. “It’s a Hallmark holiday”, they grumble. “Have you seen the prices?”, they moan. “Why can’t I show someone I love them the rest of the year?”, they implore.

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All of these comments have some merit. But Valentine’s Day is a good and necessary thing. Know why? Because humans thrive on shared experiences. In fact, it’s what we’re all about. Of course your boyfriend can buy you flowers every other day of the year (he won’t), but then where’s the shared endeavour? Where’s the watercooler moment where you bond and speculate and compare?

“Hey Marie, my boyfriend got me roses!”
“Oh cool, my boyfriend did that for me on March the 8th!”

It’s not quite the same, is it?

Now, it’s completely true that companies bring out new products and sometimes charge more for existing ones to capitalise on Valentine’s Day. But do you know why that is? Because they’re businesses. What do you expect them to do? Respectfully maintain their silence and ignore the holiday, because people should just damn well buy their products for loved ones the other 364 days of the year? Come on.

The fact that holiday-specific products are for sale on Valentine’s Day does not make the whole thing a cynical exercise in relieving you of your money. It’s no different from Christmas or birthdays: there’s no obligation at all to buy a Valentine-specific present. There are tens of thousands of products for sale in February that are also available year-round – as many people are getting iPods as heart-shaped chocolates. And you don’t even have to buy anything – you can make something if you’re really determined to avoid giving profit to legitimate businesses the way you do the rest of the year (“Buy groceries?! Of course not. Those companies are just trying to make MONEY!”). It’ll probably be pants, but it’s an option.

So at this point you’ll probably say you object to the obligation to give anything at all. You know what? You’re right. Let’s just abolish Valentine’s Day and Christmas and birthdays and Easter and just give things whenever we want. Enjoy getting no presents.

Because the fact is, we need prompts. Everyone’s busy, and means to show their loved one how much they love them – but days go by, and weeks, and months, and you don’t get round to it. Is it a bad thing that one day a year – ONE in 365 – society gets up in your face and reminds you to say the things you’d say if it were your last day on earth? Is it?

Valentine’s Day is, like all holidays, a way for everyone to get together, get excited, and talk about a specific thing. Think of it like a trending topic for the world. Tomorrow, everyone will be talking about the love in their lives. And that’s not a bad thing.

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