Carli Botha and Kristin de Decker
February 14 is marked as a day for celebrating love by many people around the world. There are numerous stories about the origin of Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, as it is also called. The most popular origin story is the story of Saint Valentine, who performed weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. He was imprisoned for his actions.
According to History.com, Saint Valentine sent a letter to a young girl he fell in love with while imprisoned, and he ended the letter with, “from your Valentine”. This is where the term, ‘your valentine’, originated. Originally, this day was only meant as a day to honour Saint Valentine, who was viewed as “a sympathetic, heroic and a romantic figure”.
As the years went by, Valentine’s Day became associated with a day of giving and receiving love. Popular gifts given on Valentine’s Day are flowers, teddy bears and cards. Fabiana Silva, the owner of the Hatfield Flower Shop, told PDBY that Valentine’s day is the busiest day of the year for a flower shop. She starts preparing for Valentine’s Day during the first week of January every year. Silva believes that Valentine’s Day has become more personal through the years as “people come in and customise their gifts, sometimes spending up to R3000”.
“Saint Valentine sent a letter to a young girl he fell in love with while imprisoned, and he ended the letter with, ‘from your Valentine’“
Silva also added that she gets quite a few customers who order flowers for their parents, colleagues and friends. “Nowadays it is about more than just romantic love, it is about showing the people in your life that you care about them”. Valentine’s day is a great business opportunity, but Silva told PDBY that it is about more than just how much someone spends on a gift, it is the thought that counts. Silva ended off by saying, “love never changes, it will always be love and people will always want to celebrate it”. Valentine’s Day parties have also grown in popularity. These parties interestingly include Anti-Valentine’s Day parties as well, a concept appealing to both single people and those in relationships.
A paper by Otnes, Ruth and Milbourne revealed that men often have less positive attitudes towards gift-giving on Valentine’s Day than women. Additionally, the men that formed the basis of the study appeared to restrict their expression of appreciation, in the form of gifts, to significant others, whilst women extended this to both friends and family. Another important point that was highlighted explores how Valentine’s Day gift-giving can be attributed to not only showing affection but also obligation and social expectation.
Close and Zinkhan, from the University of Georgia, also noted that “Valentine’s Day has a materialistic aspect that is reflected in the multitude of ads, public relations material, in-store displays, and e-communications that remind consumers to buy something for their loved ones”. This is often fuelled by societal preconceptions and demarcated gender roles. Close and Zinkhan suggest that this is sometimes combatted by people who, purposefully, exchange hand-made and sentimental gifts, instead of giving into the heightened consumerism.
“love never changes, it will always be love and people will always want to celebrate it”
It is not surprising then that anti-valentine’s day parties have increased in popularity, a concept appealing to single people and those in relationships. Close and Zinkhan account for the holiday often being highly disliked due to one not having a significant other. With Valentine’s Day approaching many feel an increased pressure about being single and Laurie Essig, in her book Love, Inc., emphasizes the importance of not overly romanticizing one’s relationships, as popular culture and movies often present unrealistic expectations. She advocates not celebrating Valentine’s Day at all, so as to find satisfaction without ‘fairy-tale’ like prospects.
Moreover, in an article by Newman and Nelson, the participation of homosexual couples in mainstream Valentine’s day is explored. Here it is suggested that “some homosexual couples cannot ‘legitimately participate’ in the dominant rituals associated with the holiday due to oppression by a ‘heterosexual society’”. This raises issues of inclusion and questions the validity of the holiday as being a day that represents love itself. Although Valentine’s Day is marketed to be one of giving and receiving many types of love, it is often met with apprehension. Yet, the day is still widely celebrated and can extend beyond romantic love and simply take shape as acts of appreciation.
Illustration: Giovanna Janos