What is love? We have defined love as “an intense feeling of deep affection” or “a great interest and pleasure in something,” but can love truly be captured in the essence of a few words?
Poets, artists, and musicians have been attempting to describe this coveted emotion for centuries. However, maybe the elusive definition is what makes love so captivating. After all, we have a whole day dedicated to the concept of love: Valentine’s Day.
The origins of Valentine’s Day
The roots of our Feb. 14 celebrations can be found in ancient Roman paganism; a festival known as Lupercalia was celebrated annually on the 15th of the month. The festival was dedicated to fertility, vitality, and purification.
During this holiday, sacrifices would be conducted by priests in the name of Lupercus, the Roman god of fertility and agriculture. Men would run about “whipping” women with the bloody skin of the sacrifices. These practices were thought to purify and make women more fertile.
However, as Christianity emerged in Europe, pagan traditions were demonized. Valentine’s Day is said to commemorate the martyrdom of several different Catholic saints under the name of “Valentine.” Some of the stories surrounding the saints deal with love, so it’s speculated that Christians placed the holiday during the same time pagans celebrated Lupercalia in order to convert them to Christianity more easily.
Romantic consumerism in modern life
Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide. In America, we place emphasis on our own romantical relationships. We splurge on chocolates, flowers, and fancy restaurant reservations to declare our ongoing affection for one another. Spending money on material items is what we have morphed into showing our “love.” The U.S. alone is estimated to spend around $23.9 billion on Valentine’s Day this year.
That brings us back to the question: What is love? It has to be more than giving your girlfriend roses and a box of chocolates.
For a day seemingly dedicated to the concept of love, our society places importance on something else entirely: obligated consumerism. Most of us not only feel pressured to purchase presents for our loved ones, but we also expect specialty items in return. A day that is supposed to be meant for expressing love for the people in our lives has transformed into a day of “What can I buy for [person]?”
While purchasing gifts for your loved ones is not a negative thing, it is the compulsion and obligation to buy specific things for a specific day that reign the problem. Companies profit exponentially off our desire to present our “love.”
They mass-produce heart-shaped boxes and stick baby cupids on products because, in our eyes, those products are supposed to convey our affections. I mean, if you aren’t giving your significant other a bouquet of red roses bunched into the shape of a heart, do you really love them?
Instead of expressing our affections through thoughtless purchases, there is opportunity for more meaningful gestures of love. There is no harm in communicating with your loved ones to discover what actually means a lot to them.
Maybe their love language is physical affection, and all they want to do is cuddle on the couch and watch a movie. Perhaps they would prefer a simple date, walking, and people-watching downtown as opposed to a piece of Valentine-themed jewelry they would never wear. Or possibly, they do find gifts to be significant attributes of showing admiration, but they find simple purchases, like their favorite, rarely-bought snack, to be more meaningful than an expensive item of clothing
What is love?
It all boils down to a sense of authenticity. Is what you are gifting this Valentine’s Day truly coming from the heart, or is it coming from what we are told equals love?
Feb. 14 isn’t only catered towards romance, either. If there is someone in your life that you cherish, whether that be a family member, friend, or even animal companion, there is no harm in cultivating that relationship.
If you are without a significant other this Valentine’s Day, reach out to others that you love. While love is a difficult concept to articulate, it is something that is indefinite. It does not have to be used up on a sole individual.
While as a society we may feel comfortable rolling with the status quo, this Valentine’s Day can be a chance to expand on true forms of love. In the words of American author, Henry Miller, “The only thing we never get enough of is love; and the only thing we never give enough of is love.”
Love is so well-known, yet so indescribable; it has power beyond our knowing, and it’s within our ability to utilize its endless potential.
Mo is the current editor-in-chief of The Seattle Collegian and attends Seattle Central with aspirations to pursue a career in journalism and communications while also delving into anthropology. She aims to explore the world and reveal the stories it wishes to tell through her writing and photography/videography. When she’s not captivated by her journalistic pursuits, she loves to go on adventures, create, watch films, and surf.
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