The crushing burdens of love

Pressure to spend strips meaning of this holiday


Art: Elizabeth Posey

Laura Heffernan , Arts and Entertainment Editor

Candy, cards, chocolates, gifts, hearts. These things come to mind quickly when thinking about Valentine’s Day. Family members, friends, or romantic partners also come to mind, although mostly in the context of gift giving.
Even at Branham, gift giving is advertised around the holiday. Robotics Club is popular around Valentine’s Day. The club is known for delivering roses via robot to individuals during class time. This impressive show encourages the materialism of the holiday as it provides a pressure for students to make a grand show to those they love.
Even with cute additions, the gift-giving aspect of Valentine’s Day has stripped the holiday of its true meaning and tossed it into the hands of consumerism. It’s not bad to give gifts to a significant other, but what is bad is when the materialistic objects become the main focus instead of quality time.
There is a societal pressure for people to try to buy the best, most expensive gift for their loved ones. A general perception is that the more expensive a gift is, the better it is. While it’s easy to fall into this mental trap, the amount of money is spent has no correlation to how much someone is loved or appreciated.
However, Valentine’s Day was not always a Hallmark holiday, let alone a consumerist giant. According to the National Public Radio, the holiday started to become sweeter as Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized the day in their works. As the romantic traditions migrated to the United States during the Industrial Revolution, companies began to mass produce valentine cards. As precedents carry on, many use the holiday to spoil those they love.
According to the National Retail Federation, roughly $19.6 billion was spent in 2018. The federation also estimated that $143 was spent per consumer.
A small percentage of this money is spent on classmates for their still in school: $7.26 per person. In elementary school, Valentine’s Day tends to become the focus of the school day. Teachers help kids make heart-shaped cards and paper folders for candy. Kids are usually told to bring candy for everyone in the class.
While this is an enjoyable activity for young kids, it also reinforces the idea that Valentine’s Day is mainly for giving gifts. If the focus for younger kids is to get candy for every classmate, it’s going to carry over into adulthood, growing into extravagant gift giving.
Jewelry, flowers, clothing, cards, or candy although none of it is needed to show how much love someone has for a person. There is a simple solution to loosening the grip consumerism has on the holiday. People may feel pressured to into giving gifts when in reality they may not be able to afford them, which is okay because loved ones should be more important than gifts. Instead of feeling pressured to find a great gift for someone, simply just let them know they are loved or appreciated. Make an effort to spend quality time with those that are a big part of everyday life, no gifts required.