The Christmas tree is barely in its box and along come the heart shaped pink and red boxes at the checkout, Valentine’s Day dinner menus and dodgy red ribbon clip art. I walked into Asda last night to find a rail of black and red satin lingerie in the foyer. “Valentine’s Day River Cruises” and “Valentine’s Day Roses” are top Google searches. As with all other ‘special days,’ it’s become so commercialised that it’s now a complete turn off with far too much baggage and expectation.
There are various myths around the origins of Valentine’s Day. This version reports that circa AD 280 Emperor Claudius II banned his young soldiers from getting married claiming it was too distracting. Saint Valentine (a priest at the time) rebelled and set about arranging secret liaisons for lovers. When Claudius found out he sentenced him to death by execution on February 14th hence the day being named in his honour.
It’s also been linked to the Christian church as a way of controlling the masses and taking attention from the ancient Pagan festival Lupercalia, which takes place between February 13-15th as a celebration of health and fertility.
Hallmark sold the first Valentine’s Day card in 1913, which kicked off an annual tradition that we still celebrate today. We send around 145 million Valentine’s Day cards according to The Greeting Card Association. So, it’s big business for retailers…
Yes it’s over commercialised in the west, but at least we have a choice as to whether to celebrate it or not. Valentine’s Day is banned in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Pakistan, which surely only makes it more elicit and sexually charged? I’d love to know what women in those countries do to celebrate it for themselves.
I asked some friends and colleagues for their opinion, which led to some fascinating and very funny conversations…
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day. Pink flowers. Red hearts. Lots of cards… For me, to be honest, Valentine’s Day reeks of marketing, expectation and clichés for the most part. It is, however, an opportunity to celebrate love as a universal concept. So every year, I buy myself flowers, write down everything about me that I think rocks, write a gratitude list about everyone I have in my life who is totally amazing and use it as an opportunity to feel centred and secure. If there is a man in my life at the time, then it’s a great opportunity for an early night and some fun too!
Danni Lu Carr, Creativity Specialist and Practitioner
If there’s one benefit to the 14th of February becoming commercial, it’s that couples who don’t buy into the roses-and-champagne thing can be a bit more up-front about what they like instead. Maybe it’s walks in the park, exchanging hand-knitted jumpers, or exchanging awesome sex toys that you can use all year round. Either way, the fact that Valentine’s Day is met with as many eye-rolls as swoons helps to show us all that there’s no one true formula for love.”
Adam Lewis, CEO, Hot Octopuss.
I’m an old school romantic so I like Valentine’s Day as it makes you think about the love and romance side of your relationship. I personally don’t do the sitting in a restaurant with loads of other couples on Valentine’s night thing as that’s just awkward and leads to arguments left, right and centre.
It is very commercial but if you don’t lose sight of the meaning of the day, keep it simple and have the correct intentions then there’s a good meaning to it. As with Christmas and Easter, it’s too easy to get lost in the hype and commercialism. I like simple and basic, actions speak louder than words and some massive heart shaped balloon, so my hubbie cooking me dinner and a funny card is enough to get me naked!
One of the best ones in my early 20s was a guy who sent a taxi to pick me up which then stopped in the middle of Waterloo Bridge. The guy was standing there with a bottle of champagne and we just stood having a drink looking at the river views which he knew I loved. A bad one was when an idiot city boy I was seeing sent me a massive bunch of flowers which I knew his PA had sent so when I asked him what flowers he sent, and he replied “how the fuck should I know, Magda sent them.” I sent them back to him telling him romance was not dealing with his PA.
He asked me “What’s your favourite position?”
I said “CEO’”.
Killing Kittens is always manic on Valentine’s Day so my husband knows that quiet romance won’t happen then. He always surprises me with a random date night a few days’ later or a weekend away… That’ll do.
Emma Sayle, CEO, Killing Kittens.
I think Valentine’s Day in itself is far too hyped up and another money making day… Hark at me… the one who has just made special Valentine’s intimates. My most popular garment by far was the crotchless variety…
Valentine’s was a time celebrated by the beloved Roman men who many years ago took it upon themselves to get drunk and kill animals then conquer women physically.
Women were beaten and flogged by dead animal hides and lulled into thinking it would make them more fertile! A whole sordid religious affair mixed with bloody Pagan rituals. Valentine’s Day certainly has changed for the better and is far less gruesome nowadays. No cuddly fluffy bears with hearts proclaiming “I wuv yoo” stitched onto cheap satin made by an uninterested workman or lady.
Seeing the overwhelming amount of stuff in the queue at M&S the other day did make my stomach turn a little. Deep inside I hope that my Italian stallion will come home from work with his arms full of red roses, boxes of kittens and bright sparkly adornments ready to be thrust upon my fingers and sing out his forever undying love for me whilst I saunter around dressed in a slutty red lace number!
Oooh, the imagination!!!
Leanna Dallas, Founder, Velvet Rebel Lingerie.
When I see ads for “The Perfect Valentine’s Day” I feel sadness for the pressure and expectations that men and women put on each other. I want to share my love with someone that doesn’t adhere to commercial expectations but finds me in their heart every day, and is not afraid to let me know in the thousands of ways that love speaks.
Louise Mazanti, Psychotherapist and Psychosexual Somatics Practitioner.
I think of myself as deeply romantic – but I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. For me true love is about authenticity, connection, love, playfulness and those precious moments together. These things can’t be served up to order on a certain day but arise from our hearts spontaneously.
Mike Lousada, Psychosexual Therapy and Bodyworker.
I celebrate if in a relationship – with a little tongue in cheek – but hate it when single. This year I’ll be celebrating anti Valentine’s Day with some other single friends at a local music gig night. Otherwise it is seriously depressing!
Meryl Cubley, freelance journalist and PR.
My beloved grandmother was born on St Valentine’s Day so that day was always filled with heart shaped cakes and pink balloons, which she loved. As the day has so long been linked with her I was never really into it as a day for romance. Boyfriends along the years have bought small non-pink presents or non-red roses (I hate red roses). Now I feel that we should appreciate our partners, husbands or wives every day of the year not just for that one day. Sadly I’m not sure that happens as much as we would all like, so much like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day is a day to say I appreciate and love you I guess. I don’t celebrate it now, but like to do something that doesn’t involve a colour or a themed menu.
I think with any “day” albeit Mother’s Day, Easter or Christmas, the whole thing has gone way beyond commercialism, it is pretty obscene. I think it’s ok to celebrate the day but in your own low key way that has nothing to do with a saint or a slightly sad red rose in plastic. If you are single it is another way to ostracise you, but thankfully there are lot of non-Valentine’s events now. This year I’m buying myself three huge bunches of yellow and white roses on the 12th February, to say I appreciate me!
Kate Arnold Nutrition.
My husband and I celebrate it but not necessarily on the 14th and we definitely don’t spend a fortune. We show our love in random ways throughout the year, we don’t have to do it on one prescribed day. But it’s a good excuse to celebrate our love and that’s always a good thing.
Victoria Blisse, erotic romance author.
I am well known for loathing Valentine’s Day – a commercialised slopfest that I can’t imagine anyone over about 14 taking at all seriously. And even when you’re a teenager, most so-called Valentine’s are wind-ups, aren’t they? As the above comments make clear, we should appreciate our loved ones 365 days a year not one. True romance, those heart-stopping moments when you want the world to stop turning and hold-it-right-there, can’t be forced, they just happen. If they don’t a pink padded heart and a bunch of wilting roses don’t do it for me, sorry!
Jill Eckersley, health journalist.
I think it’s sweet to have a day dedicated to love and romance, but it’s become so commercialised and too much is expected from the day. People need to put less pressure on the day and remember that there are 364 other days to show love.
Danielle Samantha Free, Writer.
I hate people cashing in on it. Seriously, £25 for 12 red roses to be delivered. Restaurants with special Valentine’s menus, yuk yuk yuk… Having said that, I would be gutted not to get a card…
Emma Bryant, handmade greetings cards designer.
We celebrate just a little. We do cards and I get my obligatory dozen roses. We do what we normally would do at home, but add a nice bottle of champagne. I’m a cynical hopeless romantic. Appealing to the capitalist me, my best Valentine’s Day was 1998 where I was showered with an obscene amount of gifts in NYC. Granted, two days later he confessed that he’d been cheating on me since July, but the day itself was grand.
Rachel Neuburger, Women and War Festival Producer.
Valentine’s Day is like all “special days”, sheer commercial hype. Love should be celebrated every day possible.
John Malloch-Caldwell, Photographer.
I think it’s good to share a little love on Valentine’s Day. However, what really annoys me is when restaurants add extra tables to their already cramped floor space leaving about 3 inches between you and the couple on the next table! Now I just cook a meal at home… Far more relaxing and VERY private!
Paula Whitelock, Designer.
I’m a romantic, but Valentine’s Day joins Halloween and Christmas in being American commercialised crap! You shouldn’t need one day to show anyone you love them and flowers and chocolates do not make up for 364 days of being a chump.
Clare Jenkyns, Dog groomer at Puriton Paws.