De-commercializing Valentine’s Day

By Erika Weisensee

Americans are expected to spend 14.7 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day this year. At least that’s what candy, flower, greeting card and jewelry retailers are hoping for, according to the National Retail Federation. I hear that number and wonder, is there really a financial crisis? Since New Year’s, the stores have been oozing pink and red, with teddy bears and heart-shaped boxes, balloons and bouquets of ready-to-go flowers strategically placed by the entryways to attract the most attention.

Over the years, advertising and marketing pros have skillfully crafted a day in which people not only feel pressure to buy but expect to receive gifts from their Valentines. We’ve been programmed to spend, spend, spend on a day when we are supposed to love, love, love.

A current television ad by a national jewelry chain suggests that diamond earrings are the secret to lasting happiness. And that’s just one example. Everywhere we turn, we are encouraged to buy for our Valentines, and not just romantic partners but scores of other people in our lives. Retailers have successfully stretched the holiday from a day for lovers to a day for everyone you love. There’s nothing wrong with that, but, of course, they want us to buy for all of them.

It’s not that I’m against giving or receiving gifts.  I’m just especially fond of the most romantic and oldest known Valentine’s custom-sending cards or letters to the ones you admire. In a day when a handwritten letter or note is considered old-fashioned, nothing really compares to receiving a message of love from the one you love.

A hand-written note expressing your love for another? Now, that’s a unique Valentine.

###  Erika Weisensee is a writing mom and a native Oregonian. She lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism at the University of Portland.

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