The City


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28 January 2021

Valentine's Day: What's Love Got To Do With It?

Valentine’s Day is upon us but that, too, will look much different this year, and some people are not happy about it.

If you hear “Valentine’s Day” and the image springs to mind of lovers celebrating with a background of red roses and cherubs flying around, well, you might be living in the wrong century. The holiday has transitioned to more inclusive messaging that is more about showing affection to anyone important to you, and less about romantic love.

Some people mourn the loss of a holiday dedicated to romantic love, others complain about the holiday being hijacked by greedy marketers. I say we should try to accept change and consider the idea that St. Valentine’s Day has been in fact part of one social marketing strategy or another from the very beginning. Pundits consider the birth of social marketing to be in the 70s, when we first realized we could use advertisements to sell ideas and socially accepted behaviors. I think it started much earlier and that St. Valentine’s Day was used from the beginning to sell the idea of love that fit the social norm at that particular time. A short Valentine’s Day history might clarify this point. Here are the highlights.

– Before St. Valentine’s Day, Romans celebrated Lupercalia on February 15th. According to history.com this was a “bloody, violent, and sexually-charged celebration awash with animal sacrifice, random matchmaking, and coupling in the hopes of warding off evil spirits and infertility.”

– Enter St. Valentine. Some people are certain we celebrate a St. Valentine’s who died on February 14th, 269 AD. Historians are not so certain as three different martyrs died around the same time. They were all named Valentine. Some think we celebrate one of these martyred saints, others believe that the “Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to ‘Christianize’ the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.” Brilliant marketing move, if you ask me.

– The Victorian Era with its value focused on religion and morality transformed St. Valentine’s Day into a celebration of romantic love. We could safely say that the “roses and cherubs” image we associate with St. Valentine’s Day is a product of that era. While maybe not intentionally used to change social behavior, the new romantic Valentine’s Day feast was clearly a response to societal changes of the time.

– As the definition of romantic love continues to change in the 21st century, couples are (according to an article in theguardian.ukperceived as being “smug, sexless, bourgeois, and boring.” Romantic love is no longer something we worship on a pedestal above all else. There is no wonder that we expanded our celebration of love to include family and friends, even our furry friends.

Are marketers rejoicing at the news of newly opened avenues for sale? Sure. Maybe in another year I would have been amongst the complainers, but in 2021 we need all the love we can get and most marketers need help surviving, so I abstain. Tell everyone you care for how much they mean to you, hug your furry friend, and open your wallet in a responsible way. Support a small business you admire, because that’s love too. Hey, call me crazy, but go ahead and say hello to the neighbor you stopped talking to when they voted for “the other party.” Love is love after all.

Image credit: Montana Isabella via Shutterstock



Posted by Staff Writer at 07:00 AM
The City |

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