Columnist – Sandra Fong Young
The Mom Market
It’s a holiday that is both widely celebrated and widely disparaged. In fact, this Valentine’s Day, the PR firm I work has been helping local businesses come up with ways to promote V-Day with both bountiful gift suggestions for the one you love and “Singles Awareness Day”-type events (for different clients, as I’m sure you figured out).
But where did Valentine’s Day come from, and what’s with all the you-need-to-get-something-special-for-your-significant-other marketing surrounding it?
A “Hallmark Holiday”?
Valentine’s Day is often called a “Hallmark Holiday,” meaning that it was created by greeting card companies and other presents of affection peddlers for their own monetary gain. This is a claim that Hallmark directly refutes. In one Hallmark press room fact sheet, titled “How a Holiday Becomes a Card-Sending Occasion” the card giant states, “While we’re honored that people so closely link the Hallmark name with celebrations and special occasions, we can’t take credit for creating holidays.” And although this company (and many others) are responsible for heavily promoting Valentine’s Day and its gift-giving component, it is true that they did not create it.
The Day of Love’s History
In fact, the HISTORY channel’s History.com website attributes the creation of the holiday back to around 500 AD to honor one or more patron saints named Valentine. There appears to be many different stories as to who Saint Valentine was, but he is consistently portrayed as someone who made many romantic gestures.
Saint Valentine’s Day (its full official name) was originally observed with love notes and other tokens, and printed valentines didn’t begin until the end of the 18th century. These pre-written cards were particularly helpful at a time when direct expression was frowned upon.
In the early 1700s, mass exchange of handmade Valentine’s Day cards began (think the cards students make for each other across American classrooms today). The first mass-produced valentines became available in the 1840s.
Today, the traditions continue, as millions of cards (and now e-cards) are sent on or around February 14. We regularly hear and see marketing campaigns – most often aimed at men – for jewelry, candy, flowers and lingerie that they should purchase for their sweetie. However, History.com reports that the vast majority of V-Day cards are purchased by women.
However you choose to commemorate Cupid’s busiest day of the year, know that Valentine’s Day began because of romantic gestures. It’s a day to market your love to those that you care for – which may or may not include a Hallmark card.
Sandra Fong Young is a public relations account executive at J. Walcher Communications and freelance writer.