Jewellery, roses, soft toys, clothes, cards, confectionary; the sudden appearance of these items in shops and on social media can only mean one thing: Valentine’s Day has come around.

If you happen to sell any of these items, you’ll probably be rubbing your hands in delight; it may well be the most lucrative time of your year - over and above Christmas if you’re a florist. Valentine’s Day consumption brought UK businesses over a billion pounds last year. Passionate Britons bought a sobering £20 million worth of gifts for their pets alone in 2016.

A sentimental hangover from the Victorian era, but a celebration steeped in ancient Roman traditions, February 14th is, of course, exploited for its enormous commercial possibilities: what to do, where to eat, how to act; all questions that can be handled by businesses referring to their goods and services.

After all, an act of love is what you make it. Years of aggressive Valentine’s marketing has had a major effect on people in English-speaking countries; a recent survey found that the closer to Valentine’s Day people are asked how they feel about roses and chocolates, the more positively they’ll respond (1) . Within 3 years of a 1939 marketing campaign by De Beers’ portraying diamonds as symbols of love, diamonds made up 80% of all American engagement rings (2).

Romanticism is more convincingly achieved across the year by bucking social pressure to buy material things on a particular ‘holiday’(3). After all, an act of love is what you make it.

This year, don’t complain about Valentine’s Day being commercialised, filled with expectation, pressure and money stress. If you don’t want to buy anything, don’t. Here are alternative ways to spend (on) your Valentine’s Day. 

Sources:

(1) Zayas, V., Pandey, G., & Tabak, J. (2017). Red Roses and Gift Chocolates Are Judged More Positively in the U.S. Near Valentine’s Day: Evidence of Naturally Occurring Cultural Priming. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 355. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00355

(2) Donohoe, M., (2008). Flowers, Diamonds, and Gold: The Destructive Public Health, Human Rights, and Environmental Consequences of Symbols of Love. Human Rights Quarterly, 30(1), pp.164–182.

(3) Close, A.G. & Zinkhan, G.M., (2009). Market-resistance and Valentine’s Day events. Journal of Business Research, 62(2), pp.200–207. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2008.01.027