Imani Thaniel, Contributing Writer
Buying roses, going out to dinner, gifting a teddy bear that says “I love you” — there is one day every year that people get to show their significant other or “soon-to-be” partner how much they are loved. Many cheesy American romance movies and commercials portray Valentine’s Day as the one day that, women specifically, are showered with gifts and luxury.
Although gift-giving is a common theme for Valentine’s Day across the world, it should also be a day of loving and celebrating friends, family and significant others. Valentine’s Day in the U.S. has become a contest sponsored by retail stores and marketing media companies.
U.S. holidays, including Christmas and Easter, have lost their original meanings because they have become business opportunities. The National Retail Federation shows that Americans spend an average of $162 on Valentine’s Day gifts. Nationwide, more than $20 billion are spent for the holiday, according to the study.
Valentine’s Day originated in Rome, celebrated for the first time in 496 when the Romans celebrated a holiday called Lupercalia in the middle of February. During Lupercalia, women and men became couples and sometimes got married. Because the Catholic Church wanted to make the holiday more religious, it was officially named Valentine’s Day to commemorate the Roman priest St. Valentine.
Other countries also celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, but their traditions are unique. In these places, there is less emphasis on what you buy and more on the love you spread.
In U.K. tradition, which dates back to the Victorian Era, people send anonymous valentines. They keep the valentines anonymous because they believed signing their name would send bad luck. Today, red roses are also given along with the anonymous valentine.
Women are the main gift-givers in Japan, and the most popular gift is called honmei-choco, or homemade chocolate.
Along with Valentine’s Day, South Korea also celebrates another holiday called Black Day. On April 14, South Korean single friends come together, eat noodles and celebrate being single.
In Finland and Estonia, Feb. 14 is called Friend’s Day. It is a day to honor friends and significant others. Cards are typically given to best friends, neighbors and parents.
The capitalist structure in the U.S. makes it difficult to enjoy holidays how other countries do. It turns a fun day into a competition of trying to prove your love by seeing who can spend the most amount of money. Valentine’s Day should be about the people you love, romantically or platonically.
This Valentine’s Day, don’t feel pressured to buy the perfect gift or find someone. Spend this year loving the people you have in your life.