Article by Ahona Salsabil

Red roses, teddy bears, fat babies with bows and arrows, and heart-adorned merchandise signal the arrival of a special time of year: Valentine’s Day. On February 14, people all around the world celebrated the much-awaited day with those they hold close to their hearts. Many businesses (restaurants, clothing stores, or supermarkets) took the opportunity to advertise special deals in honor of the occasion. While many regard Valentine’s Day as the most romantic day of the year, some have made claims that Valentine’s Day is a money-making scheme that preys upon people’s consumerist tendencies and desire for validation through material goods. That being said, are Bearcats on the romantic or consumerist side?

Senior Jerry L. takes the romantic stance: “Valentine’s Day, I believe, is a holiday focused on romance. Although often characterized with fancy boxes of chocolate and expensive bouquets, in its essence, the holiday is dedicated to sharing the love between friends and family.”

Going back to its origin, Jerry recounts, “Valentine’s Day was initially created to celebrate Saint Valentine. It did not start out as a consumerist tactic. However, over the course of time, capitalist ideals have marginally altered the custom by advertising somewhat over-priced merchandise. These minor alterations, however, have not changed the broader meaning of Valentine’s to individuals: a time for expressing love.”

Ms. Maz and Mr. Collett believe otherwise.

“If we had to pick, we would err on the side of consumerist because it does seems to be a holiday that is a bit fabricated – one could easily argue that it’s more about buying presents than about expressing love,” they said.

“Mr. Collett and I share an attitude towards Valentine’s Day that is founded on sheer pragmatism – namely, all the restaurants are booked and the streets are ridiculously crowded – so why bother? This year we celebrated with pizza delivery and watching The Daily Show – in other words, just your average Tuesday night,” Ms. Maz adds.

With regards to the role of consumerism in the Valentine’s tradition, they share that, “In a capitalist economy, every holiday is subject to the market forces of supply and demand. As long as there are people willing to buy conversation hearts, bouquets of roses, and fancy dinners, there will be a host of vendors willing to sell to them.  Everyone has to make their own choice about whether to buy into it or not. That being said, Mr. Collett did buy me a ceramic travel mug and I bought him some new socks, so I guess we could be considered a romantic-practical-consumerist couple.”

Senior Beatrice O. says, “I think consumerism plays a part in Valentine’s tradition to a great extent. The underlying problem is how people choose to show their love. There’s a pressure to buy gifts for your loved ones because we don’t want to seem like we don’t care. Thus, corporations exploit this mentality. We typically express our love for others on Valentine’s with material goods but that isn’t necessarily a negative thing.”

On the other hand, sophomore Saad A. says, “Valentine’s day is a bit of both. For the people who actually love each other, it’s about showing that affection. On the other hand, markets care more about making money from the people who celebrate it. So I’d say it’s more romantic but is made consumerist by the market.”

According to senior Sofia R., “There is an aspect of consumerism in Valentine’s Day but the day is also about celebrating love, be it romantic or familial. Thus, my stance is that Valentine’s Day is romantic. It’s the one day in the year that allows people to take time out of their busy day and show the people they care about that they love them. The consumerism aspect could be as simple as buying a card filled with words that are more meaningful than the amount spent on the detail, the gesture or gift does not have to be expensive to be meaningful.”

In the end, the romantic side of Valentine’s Day dominates its consumerist aspects. The consumerist aspect only thrives because of the value people have ascribed to Valentine’s Day. While businesses do take advantage of this occasion, as with many other significant holidays, they only succeed because of people’s willingness to share their love for those they hold dear. The true meaning of Valentine’s Day still prevails, as it’s a day to express affection.

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