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LANFORD: You can’t put a price on love

Don’t give into commodification during holiday seasons

<p>We often use gifts as expressions of our love, yet it has become increasingly common for the two to become confused.</p>

We often use gifts as expressions of our love, yet it has become increasingly common for the two to become confused.

Early this month was Valentine’s Day and love was in the air on Grounds. From clubs advertising candy grams to couples strolling the Lawn together, it seems impossible to escape the boundless displays of affection this time of year. As such, it is quite natural for us to think about our relationship with love — regardless of whether you are happily in a relationship, content with the single life or somewhere in between. We often use gifts as expressions of our love, yet it has become increasingly common for the two to become confused. Valentine’s Day exemplifies how the subject of commercialization can corrupt any sense of pure intention the holiday might have had. 

To understand how Valentine’s Day became a holiday of buying love, we must look to its historical origins. What was originally a feast day for a Christian martyr — who had no special relation to love — most likely found its modern connotation thanks to a reference in a work by Geoffrey Chaucer. In it, Chaucer linked birds mating to the date of Valentine’s Day — yet the fact of the matter is that St. Valentine was merely a Christian executed for his religious beliefs at a time when this was much more common in the Roman Empire. However, once this connection of Valentine’s Day and love was established in literature, it spread like wildfire and the exchanging of cards quickly became a tradition. While Hallmark might not be the progenitor of the holiday, they certainly were one of the best at capitalizing on it and turning it into a money making initiative.

Last year, Americans spent a whopping $21.8 billion on Valentine’s Day. Despite massive spending, there are plenty of helpful tips for how couples can spend the day without breaking the bank or what scams to avoid when planning your date. Clearly, it is impossible to deny that we are thinking about the monetary side of things when it comes to the holiday. The monetary aspect of Valentine’s Day even shows up here at the University when clubs use flower deliveries to raise money for their operations and make it convenient for students to find a simple way to express their affection. However, this desire to find the perfect product — and even the very principle that we are obligated to purchase in order to appease loved ones — does nothing but hurt the way we love.

If Valentine’s Day is to be a holiday about celebrating love — despite the shaky historical foundations for that claim — we must rethink the way we look at relationships and love as an ideal. This is not to say you should never buy your partner anything for Valentine’s Day. Everyone expresses their love differently, and a gift might be the perfect way to show someone you really care about them, their wants and desires. That being said, the first thought that should come to mind when you think about what love means to you should never be how much you can spend or receive. 

Valentine’s Day is just one of many holidays whose meaning can be easily lost in consumerism — with Christmas being the most obvious example. Most people end up spending a significant deal more in December than they do most other months thanks to Christmas and the cultural consciousness that accepts Coca Cola’s version of St. Nicholas as the default. Consumerism has become so rampant in its celebration that it has practically divested itself from its Christian origins and become a secular gift giving affair for many. The celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride in June is a premier example of how a celebration that has no element of buying or selling at its core is now dominated by corporations slapping rainbow flags on their commodities and profiting off the occasion. This treatment of holidays purges them of all historical remembrance or ideals to be celebrated and instead only finds solace in making a perfectly sanitized version that will sell more goods.

Looking back at Valentine’s Day, it is more than just a holiday for selling gifts. There is no one way individuals conceive of love. To truly appreciate your relationships and feelings this February, we all must look within ourselves and really think about what we love about the people in our lives and what they can do to make us feel loved. The cornerstone of this is in honest self-reflection and open communication. In this sense, Valentine’s Day has a spectacular potential to actually live up to the ideal it is alleged to represent. Talk to your partner about how they want to celebrate, find a path that works for you and you might just find that you have an even greater appreciation for love than if you had just simply bought them what was recommended in an advertisement. This goes for every holiday. To take a stand against the idea that we are only individuals in our purchase of commodities is vital in flourishing as real human beings. Love is far too profound and important of a concept to be embodied in mindless consumerism.  

Ryan Lanford is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. They can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.

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