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Is Valentine's Day A Trap or Time for Love?

How some are choosing to celebrate the holiday


Allison Brown
Senior Staff Reporter
Allison Brown


There are many legends about how Valentine’s Day truly started. According to Britannica, the holiday, named after Saint Valentine, originates in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was held in mid-February. This festival indicated fertility rites and women were paired off with men by lottery. The day didn’t become a day of romance until the 14th century, and the reason why is still unknown.


But how did a day meant for the celebration of love become a day reliant on material goods? Andrè Millard, UAB history professor, has an idea.


“If you are looking for the people who started Valentine’s Day, look no further than the greeting card industry,” Millard said. “This event and others such as Mother’s Day were invented to increase demand between the major sales seasons of Christmas and Easter.”


While there isn’t hard evidence to prove this, some digging into financial records proves that companies are making big bucks off the holiday.


“Around Valentine’s Day, flower sales increase by $1.9 billion, jewelry companies get a $3.9 billion boost and $1.3 billion worth of gift cards are sold,” according to a report by The Financial.


Have you been to Walmart lately? You’ve probably noticed they already have shelves stocked with Valentine’s Day merchandise. In fact, they put out the display about a month in advance. This merchandise includes everything from a $99 giant stuffed bear, two-foot-long “jumbo” cards, massive heart shaped balloons and hundreds of cards.

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February 14, though, those shelves will be stripped bare. Walmart almost sells out of all Valentine’s Day items.


The National Retail Federation has done consumer studies about Valentine’s day every year for the past decade. According to the National Retail Federation, this year, Valentine’s Day is expected to have record spending. In a study done by the federation, consumers said they plan to spend an average of $196, up 21% over last year’s previous record. Spending is expected to total $27.4 billion, up 32% from last year’s record $20.7 billion. In trend with the past few years, candy is the most popular item bought for Valentine’s Day, with 52% of people buying some.


“I always celebrate. My parents celebrate with me, I’ve been dating someone for three years now, so I always celebrate with him, and this year I’m also celebrating with my friends,” said Cassidy Bryant, freshman in accounting. “Usually [on Valentine’s Day] I give gifts to the people I love. I’m sending my parents a card this year. My boyfriend won’t be able to be here, but we’re still sending gifts through the mail.”


Even for individuals who are not celebrating Valentine’s Day, many are still going on a shopping spree for things like “anti-Valentine’s Day” gifts, treating themselves or having a get together.


“I see it as a good holiday to go out and meet new people,” said Brendon Hathaway, a freshman in history. “It’s not exactly just for finding love, it’s more about being social. There’s lots of events at UAB that you can go to meet people, which is usually what I do.”


The study by the National Retail Federation also found that 55% of people plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day, while the other 45% don’t.


Laura Frank, a Walmart shopper that was perusing the Valentine’s Day isles, is part of that 45% not celebrating, and said the younger generations are the ones that fixate on material goods.


“It’s a small little private deal,” Frank said. “We have dinner and visit some friends. It’s more of just getting to know each other over dinner. Younger girls have a different reason for [Valentine’s Day]. But for older girls, it’s just another day of being with your sweetheart. At 55, dinner and spending time together, that’s just fine with me. But these younger teenage girls, they expect a stuffed doggie, chocolates, all of that. But I think the boys just want something else out of it.”


Others, like Shawn McLaughlin, assistant volleyball coach at UAB, think Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be a once-a-year occasion.


“I think it’s an interesting holiday. I think valentine’s day was invented by card companies to make money. However, I do think it is an opportunity to celebrate love, which is positive. But I also think that you should celebrate love every day. I think it’s a chance to take a someone out and show them some love, but I think you should do that all the time.”


Regardless of its origins or commercialization, Valentine’s Day is meant to be a celebration of love. Don’t get lost in the isles trying to find the perfect gift and forget to take a moment to say “I love you.”





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