After the mince pie haze of Christmas has dispersed and January has passed, we then suffer the marketing ploy which finds us compelled to try our hand at romance. Valentine’s day will see all manner of gifts emblazoned with the iconic “love heart” image.
The fact that this so called heart has nothing to do with the cardiac muscle, and is actually widely regarded as the silhouette of a woman bending over, may make you think twice about giving a loved one a teddy clasping said heart. “Here honey, when I think about Valentine’s, I think about you bending over being groped by a giant bear”… and they say romance is dead.
It’s no surprise to learn that chocolates and other confectionary make up a huge portion of the gifts that pass between lovers in America. A cheap weight joke, I know. Yet it has been reported that confectionary sales reach profits of around $1 billion during the holiday. America is in no shortage of lonely hearts around Valentine’s either, with around 15% of American women sending flowers to themselves on Valentine's Day, and more than nine million pet owners are expected to buy gifts for their pets!
If your other half seems unimpressed with her gift from year to year, you should adopt Japanese culture for this mother of all made up holidays. In Japan, Valentine’s day is celebrated on two different days, February 14th and March 14th. On February 14th gifts are given, but only from females to males. On the second date, known as white day, the male returns the gift he received a month earlier. It’s easy to see the conversations that led to this tradition, presumably all ending with “well get your own gift then!”
You thought you’d be able to rely on the French for a bit of romance, however, it took the extremes of the French government to intervene in a Valentine’s custom called “drawing for”, which involved women being deserted by their would-be suitor and resulted in a bonfire being lit with images of the fleeing sweetheart burned and abuse hailed at the burning effigy. Another helping hand the French had for their Valentines came from us. Their romantic cards known as cartes d'amities were not given solely for Valentine’s but as a result of a fashion trend in jolly old blighty!
There’s one “love purchase” however, that I’m not sure qualifies as a gift but thrives on February 14th. The company Durex report that condom sales rise around 20-30% on this day alone. So at least some are enjoying themselves. Although despite people’s best efforts, they don’t always have the desired effect, with March seeing the highest home pregnancy kit sales than any other month.
So it seems that the most romantic day of the year isn’t so romantic after all: in summary all people do is eat sweets, spend too much money on bits of paper and end up bitter, lonely and if they’re not doing the love mambo they’re sending gifts to their dog. But what was to be expected from a holiday that is, after all, sponsored by a naked little boy called cupid who shoots people with a bow and arrow.