Visit my show at the PSCCU Credit Union, Vashon, Washington May, June 2024 

All You Need is Love (but skip the roses)

I’m writing this on the National Day of Loving, aka Show-People-You-Love-Them-By-Spending-Money-on-Them Day, aka Valentine’s Day.

How did we get started with this super-capitalist tradition? I assumed that there was a noble Saint Valentine, a high priest of love, tucked somewhere in history. The legends about this dude, however, are murky, and it appears there was more than one Saint Valentine. Several of them weren’t successful in staying connected to their heads (martyred). Chaucer added a romantic poem to sweeten the mix.

Over the course of time, however, Valentine’s Day proved to be a very excellent way to encourage people to spend money and became the holiday I know.

A few “fun” facts

  • People in the US spent approximately $26 Billion on Valentine’s Day in 2023, according to the National Retail Foundation (NRF). Source. (That’s $5 billion more than the GDP of Botswana.)
  • The NRF estimated people would spend $2.6 billion on Valentine’s Day flowers. Source.
  • 250 million roses are produced for the holiday, according to The Society of American Florists. Source.
  • Cut roses sold in the US primarily come from two places: Colombia and Ecuador. Farmers in those countries got a sweet trade deal in the early 1990s to encourage them to grow roses rather than coca leaves (for cocaine). Did it work? Not clear. But the results devastated US flower producers.
  • The average US consumer was estimated to spend $192.80 celebrating Valentine’s Day in 2023, up from $175.41 in 2022. ($131 for family members and significant others.) Source. However, in 2023, only 52% of consumers celebrated Valentine’s Day down 10 percentage points from 2007. Source

Proving our love

Professor Jadrian Wooten at Virginia Tech, uses the term “signaling” to describe why lovers spend so much on each other. “Basically, it means someone thinks that how much they spend on their significant other demonstrates how much they love them.”

Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, articulates the spirit of V-day in his press release. “Valentine’s Day is a special occasion to shop for the people we care most about.”

Really? Buying stuff is how we show our love?

I don’t argue that we can show love through our deeds and our gifts. But capitalism pretends that we can buy our way into proving our love.

Love comes from our hearts. Without its essence infused into our deeds, our gifts are hollow.

When we share love, the simplest actions can become celebrations.

No gifts, please

I tell my husband, “No flowers on Valentine’s Day, please,” and assure him that I feel his love in how he does things that matter to me. This year that meant cutting plywood sheets into panels I can use for painting.

Sometimes to celebrate (and comfort) him, I cook him macaroni. He likes that.

Because words are my thing, I tell him, again and again, what I believe: our love has grown richer and stronger with each of our 36 years together (he agrees).

Now that we can no longer deny that our days together are limited, our time together has expanded to be more precious.

Love isn’t meant to be commoditized. When we infuse love into our simplest deeds, every day can become a “National Day of Loving.”

Because the world really needs that.

Fun fact: BBC Commissioned the Beatles to write “All You Need Is Love” for their television program “Our World.” It was broadcast live for the first time on June 25th, 1967. Learn more.

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