As a kid, filling out the “to” and “from” section of small cardboard Valentine’s Day cards from CVS gave me a rush. The best part was folding the piece of paper in half and diligently attaching the heart sticker to keep the card from revealing the sender. Those little Valentine’s Day cards told my classmates I cared and made my third-grade heart happy. But now I am much older and barely any wiser, and I realize that 1) the “rush” was probably from sugar and 2) we spend way too much money on Valentine’s Day.
In the name of love, we spend billions of dollars trying to show people we care. An expected $20.7 billion is going to be spent this year for Valentine's Day, according to the National Retail Federation. Of course, the positive energy spread on this day is praiseworthy. In a world in turmoil, a day dedicated to love is a necessity. On the other hand, don’t feel as if Feb. 14 is an obligatory gift-giving day.
Part money-spending trap, part Hallmark holiday, Valentine’s Day is celebrated by the masses with exchanges of candy, cute stuffed bears and, if you’re lucky, jewelry or fancy leather goods. Although some believe the day is only for showboating and heart-eyed couples, the magic of marketing somehow manages to encapsulate the population of people who might be safe from this holiday: singles. Galentine’s Day, the unofficial singles celebration the day before Valentine’s Day, grows in prominence each year. Scan your calendar and every month or so there seems to be a holiday that calls for gift-giving.
I’m no conspiracy theorist, but it seems as if businesses have tricked us into thinking all these holidays are about presents and candy. For example, how did tradition lead us to the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus? These characters have more to do with spending rather than giving. Their origin is so far off than what they are now, it’s hard to see how we even got to this point where almost every holiday calls for a gift.
It may be that we have associated gift-giving with a sign of gratitude. For some, presents are how they like to be shown love, which is fine. But for those not so materialistic, don’t feel pressured to buy useless stuffed animals or freshly cut flowers. If you are only buying something because of a Valentine’s Day tradition, think about saving your money. Taking the time and energy to go out and purchase a present for someone is nice, but it’s not the only way to show you care.
For those who choose to partake in the love fest, try taking part in an old tradition that doesn’t require falling for the marketing scam that is Valentine’s Day. Write a love letter to your mom, dad, significant other, best friend or whomever you think needs to know how much you admire them. A handwritten note reminding the reader of everything you adore about them and memories you two have shared is more meaningful than any box of chocolate.
It’s hard to remember Valentine’s Day is about love, especially when everyone posts about the presents their “boo” gifted them. Think about all the other holidays that claim to be about love, yet they also call for a present exchange. There are so many other times throughout the year that have us rushing to the mall to pick up the goodies we “need” to give to someone. If there is any holiday that is not the time for presents, it’s Valentine’s Day, a day when celebrating love is the most important part.
Jackie DeFreitas is a UF journalism junior. Her column appears on Wednesdays.