Valentine’s Day: The History, Celebrating, and Boycotting of a Hallmark Holiday
Ah, Valentine’s Day—a day of love, romance, and showing that special person in your life how much you care. You may be wondering, ‘how can I have a green Valentine’s Day?’ Well, you could: buy organic candy, cook a romantic dinner instead of dining out, obtain seeds to plant for spring instead of buying roses that will soon wilt and die, or do other such things. There is a very simple secret to have an excellent, green Valentine’s Day.
Now, before those of you who obsess over V-Day decide to viciously jump down my throat, hear me out. Valentine’s Day has a long and twisted history. Some may associate it with numerous Saint Valentine martyrs; others may pin it on the roman tradition of Lupercalia. The fact is, Valentine’s Day as we know it today—with the giving of cards, flowers and so forth—stems from a 19th century British tradition. In the early 1800s, factories manufactured valentines using real lace and ribbon. The custom of sending valentines caught on quickly throughout the UK. Nearly half the population at that time spent their money on valentines. What’s more, over one billion pounds is spent every year on flowers, candy and so forth; not to mention an estimated 25 million cards are sent out. Can you imagine how many trees have to be cut down so one country can send 25 million cards? That certainly doesn’t seem very green to me.
While other countries have their own versions of Valentine’s Day, such as the Finnish “Friend’s Day”, the Mexican “Day of Love and Friendship”, and the Philippines’ “Hearts Day”; the US tradition stemmed from the British tradition. It was started by Esther Howland, of Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1847. After receiving a British valentine in the mail, she decided to begin marketing her own hand-made valentines in the states.
Check out these statistics for a modern US Valentine’s Day:
- 180 million valentines are exchanged every year.
- 1,233 locations produced valentine chocolate in 2007.
- $14.4 billion is how much it cost to ship all that chocolate.
- $24 million was spent on domestically produced cut roses in 2008.
- 1,753 establishments manufactured jewelry in 2007.
All that shipping, production and manufacturing are certainly great ways to cut down on your carbon footprint…
Yes, the idea of love, showing people they are loved, or feeling that you are loved, is a grand thing. However, the excessive marketing of it is not. Valentine’s Day is like an anniversary or birthday—people are expecting some form of gift or sign of affection. There is no surprise, there is no mystery, and most likely no excitement either. I mean, seriously, do you really need to have a specific date to tell someone “I love you”? Pick a random April Saturday and go on a picnic. Cook a candlelight dinner for two in October. Make some craft or piece of recycled art for them at the end of July. Most importantly, tell the ones you care about how you feel every single day. You don’t know when something may happen—a car crash, a hostage situation. How would you feel if something happened and you didn’t express yourself, all because of a silly holiday?
My point is you should not feel obligated or stressed out over Valentine’s Day to show your love to someone. That is something you can—and should—do at any time of the year, not just when a calendar tells you to. If you want to do something this year, simply tell them how you feel and enjoy their company. If you really do love each other, you won’t need anymore than that—and no amount of chocolate or shiny jewelry could ever suggest otherwise.
By Heidi Marshall