Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate both lighthearted and serious affairs of the heart. The day is not a sanctioned holiday, but it nevertheless has attracted a wide and growing following. It also has proved to be a significant source of profit for some retailers.
Most everyone views Valentine's Day as a genial and generally harmless way to show love and affection to those who are nearest and dearest to them, as well as to special friends and acquaintances. Doing so, traditionalists say, is good for the heart and for the soul.
The day usually is marked with an exchange of gifts or mementos. Finding the perfect one to convey a message that matches sentiment and emotion to the reality of sometimes deeply personal relationships is sometimes difficult. It's not for lack of choices. The holiday, which has its origins in Roman times and a rich history that burst into full flower in the 18th century, provides a bewildering variety of possibilities for those seeking just the right token of affection.
The most popular is a card, but picking the right one can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating project. Even so, the Valentine's card remains wildly popular. A spokesman for the greeting card industry says the Valentine's Day celebrants around the world will send or give around a billion Valentine's Day cards this year. This makes Feb. 14 the second-largest card-sending holiday of the year. More than double that number is sent during the Christmas season.
Flowers, especially roses, candy, jewelry and plush toys are the other popular choices for Valentine's Day gifts. It's quite an industry and many retailers have come to depend on the holiday for a boost in sales during the doldrums of winter. A spokesman for one retail trade group says about $14 billion will be spent by those celebrating Valentine's Day this year.
Some naysayers say that it is skillful public relations rather than true love and affection that has propelled Valentine's Day to its current popularity. But that's cynical, and Valentine's Day is certainly not that.
Indeed, Valentine's Day continues to attract new celebrants. The holiday is enjoying increasing favor in China, in India and other places around the world where an increasingly affluent populace is willing to spend money, to have parties and to exchange gifts in the name of romance.
Not everyone, of course, celebrates Valentine's Day. Some object for religious reasons and others believe that romance and love are far too personal to be celebrated publicly. Their wishes should be respected. Today, though, is a day for those who see nothing wrong or offensive in a holiday that commemorates and celebrates affairs of the heart to make their sentiments known.