Every year for Valentine’s Day, lovers around the world pull out all the stops for their sweetheart.
From the traditional flowers and chocolate to more expensive gifts such as diamonds, the holiday is just as much about spending your hard-earned cash as it is about love.
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In fact, this year consumers are anticipated to spend an average of $196.31 and a record total of $27.4 billion, according to data released by the National Retail Federation (NRF).
So if you’re feeling the pressure to get your significant other the perfect gift for V-Day, it’s likely because the commercialization of the holiday is by capitalist design.
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The origins of Valentine’s Day becoming a major commercial holiday can apparently be traced back to the United States.
While the practice of gifting your Valentine greeting cards was a centuries-long tradition in England, where the holiday was birthed, it wasn't until Valentine’s Day was “rejuvenated” across the pond in the mid-19th Century that it saw its commercial boom, according to the Library of Congress.
The Old World celebration was “often forgotten” and “easily neglected” by those in the U.S. Things took a turn in the 1840s when the holiday was transformed into something “not-to-be-missed,” author Leigh Eric Schmidt wrote in his 1995 book “Consumer Rites: The Buying & Selling of American Holidays.”
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Merchants outside of the card industry such as jewelers, florists and confectioners eventually joined the bandwagon.
“Commerce rather than ethnicity would be the creative and guiding hand in the holiday’s American rebirth,” Schmidt wrote. “When merchants rediscovered the [holiday], the former transformed the latter, not vice versa, as a merchants systematically extended the apparatus of the market into the realm of celebration.”
While companies may not have created the holiday and some of its traditions, they have certainly capitalized on it. Fast forward to the present day and we can expect to see companies rolling in the dough, as the number of Americans expected to celebrate this year has increased to 55 percent from 51 percent last year.
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Department stores are the most popular Valentine’s Day shopping destination, and they are visited by 36 percent of shoppers, the NRF reports. Thirty-two percent of shoppers are expected to seek business at discount and online stores, while 19 percent at specialty stores, 17 percent at florists, 15 percent at local small businesses, and clothing stores and jewelry shops are tied with 11 percent of shoppers.
So while Valentine’s Day may be a traditional holiday about romance, there’s nothing accidental about its tendency to hit your pockets. Love may be free, but Valentine’s Day as we know it? Not so much.