*The names in this article have been changed for confidentiality purposes.

For centuries, Valentine’s Day has been widely celebrated, all in the name of love. Across the world, this love is highlighted through gifts, like candy, flowers, jewelry, and liquors.

This annual holiday stems from the defiance of Saint Valentine, a priest in Rome during the third century, against the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Claudius believed that single men were better suited to be soldiers, rather than men with wives and families to care for. He decided to outlaw the marriage of young men – those who would be most physically fit to serve. Valentine saw this as unfair and acted as a hero to young lovers. He performed marriages for them, despite the looming threat that he may be executed. Claudius II  sentenced him to death upon learning of Valentine’s dishonesty.

This story of love prevailing in the face of adversity is not told often nowadays. Many people do not know the significance of Feb. 14, other than that it is a day of love.

In our modern culture, there are a variety of opinions and meanings of Valentine’s Day. To many, it is a day of love, meant for new lovers and long-time couples. Commonly, Valentine’s Day is synonymous with love and the requirement to show your partner (or loved ones) that they are, in fact, loved. This is rather subjective, as there are conflicting views on how couples should spend this holiday.

Valentines typically given during Valentine’s Day are largely symbols of love, like the red hearts pictured. (Photo by Lisa L Wiedmeier)

Mark and Angela, both 28 years old, have been together for five years. They laugh at the idea of needing Valentine’s Day to validate each others’ emotions.

“It’s just another day to us,” said Mark.

“We both know that we love each other; he buys me flowers at random and sometimes I surprise him with baked goods,” added Angela.

While some couples roll their eyes at the holiday and deem it overrated, others find excitement in preparing for it. Serena is 20 years old and has been in a relationship for two years. She gushed about the anticipation she feels waiting for Valentine’s Day.

“I really like the idea of showering love and presents on someone I love,” she said.

Serena added that while giving gifts is not a habit exclusive to Valentine’s Day, she loves having an excuse to do something nice for her boyfriend. Serena thinks Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for singles to confess or find love.

To those who aren’t committed relationships, it is often simply another day – a Hallmark holiday that major corporations and small businesses use as an opportunity to boost sales.

Every year, businesses that sell candy, flowers, and other favored gift options, are flooded with symbols of love and affection. The holiday is advertised all around and can catch the eye of any customer strolling by.

Tamara, who is 24 years old and single, finds herself feeling lonelier when Feb. 14 rolls around. She mentioned feeling “indifferent about [Valentine’s Day]. Maybe a bit vulnerable? Isolated?”

This story of love prevailing in the face of adversity is not told often nowadays.

Tamara’s two nieces (ages three and seven) are expected to prepare and receive cards or gifts for their classmates on Valentine’s Day. But many schools find themselves conflicted with this idea.

Students in elementary schools are somtimes encouraged to bring valentines (like those pictured above) for their classmates to celebrate Valentine’s Day. (Photo by Jon Fife)

The tradition of sending children to school with cards for their classmates has been prevalent in public schools for a long time. But some teachers and parents find it difficult to send the correct message to their children. By explaining that one gives a gift to someone they like on Valentine’s Day, it can easily be misconstrued that students should only give gifts or valentines to their friends, with the possibility of certain classmates going home that day with few to no gifts at all.

Several schools in the Toronto and GTA area have implored their teachers and parents not to participate in the exchange of cards or gifts between peers at school. They hope this will prevent students from being left out.

What does Valentine’s Day mean? Is there value in its continued recognition?

While Valentine’s Day originally symbolized love triumphing hardship, in our society fueled by stretches of shopping malls and consumerism, the meaning of the holiday has been twisted to greed and materialistic desires. Partners feel the need to prove their affection with material objects, specifically with a high price tag. Our younger generations are being taught that the key to approval, or even love, is material exchange.

Have businesses taken over what was a day of love? Is there any security in a day of affection, glossing over any other gestures in the other 364 days per year?

We need to reassess our need for this holiday and rewrite the meaning. Over time, capitalism has taken over the purity and happy smiles of our holidays. It is time, perhaps,  for a clean slate, to redeliver the proper meaning of Valentine’s Day. Then again, maybe it is such an important holiday that it is not necessary at all.

By Jessica Guo

Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.