By Yasmin Donald.
Valentine’s Day is considered one of the most commercialised holidays in the world. Every year, chocolates, teddy bears, and heart-shaped cards line the shelves of major supermarkets everywhere; and in 2023 these objects are still synonymous with love and courtship. It should be remembered though, that this was not always the case.
Chocolates were not always associated with Valentine’s Day and it was Richard Cadbury who was inspired to sell chocolates on this day in 1861. The teddy bear was not born out of its association with love either as it was inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s hunting trip in 1902.
The shape of a love heart was not copied directly from the organ that pumps blood through our veins. According to Favorito, it is said to have been created in 5th–6th century BC, in order to represent the heart-shaped fruit of the plant silphium.
All of these symbols now stand to represent love and are socially accepted to be the gifts to provide loved ones during this time of year.
Whilst receiving any of these gifts is wonderful, who says love cannot be an onion, as Carol Ann Duffy suggests in her famous poem? Afterall, much like love, the onion has layers, it lingers, it has the power to make you cry.
I am not saying everyone should buy onions, what I am saying is that nobody says you cannot buy a gift that is personal to the one/s you love. And that could be anything from an onion (because you have a joke about onions going in every meal you make together), a coffee shop voucher (because you bonded over coffee from Day 1), or it could be a toy hippo (because of the number of times you sang I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas together). Symbols of love are up to the individual.
The commercial aspect of Valentine’s Day can even be removed if you go creative and that does not require you to be good at arts and crafts.
You could bake them a cake, make them a cute message out of code, create a video montage, take them to their favourite spot and decorate it, or write something for them. There are so many options and if you consider what your skills are, an idea of what to produce should not be too far away.
It should be remembered that Valentine’s Day has more associations other than the romantic love pushed by capitalism. The cards that are exchanged on Valentine’s Day for example, were not originally intended for lovers.
In the 1800s, they celebrated affection between friends and relatives. In current day Finland, they celebrate Ystavanpaiva on the 14th, translated as Friend’s Day. In current day Mexico, they celebrate Dia del amor y la Amistad on the 14th – the day of love and friendship.
Moreover, Valentine’s Day is a day of love in all its forms, and no matter your relationship status, you can celebrate it with the special people in your life- less corporate and more coronary.