I barely took a breath before realizing another day has arrived that expects us to spend more money. It seems as if we just finished opening gifts on Christmas and packed away the decorations. February brings with it three days of consumer excess.
Super Bowl Sunday
Last Sunday was the Super Bowl, it was also my daughter-in-law’s birthday. My son picked me up to spend the day with them. He made a stop at the grocery store to pick up a cake he ordered for his wife, I opted to sit in the car and wait for him. The store was packed.
It wasn’t long before I noticed most of the carts were loaded down with chips and cases of soda (I’m sure plenty of alcohol was sold as well, but we can’t purchase alcohol in grocery stores) not what I think of as groceries. When I spotted a woman with an armload of frozen pizzas and I realized all this junk food was for the Super Bowl parties later that afternoon. Local pizza restaurants reported having a two hour wait for orders once the game started even bringing in extra help.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a good Super Bowl party every year for decades but our parties consisted of a pot of chili in the slow cooker, homemade breads, a nice french onion soup, yes, sometimes we made pizza too. We made our own tortilla chips and baked cookies or a cake to finish the day off.
This article from 2012 reported people spent $1.02 Billion on snack foods while watching the Super Bowl. That’s a big chunk out of the food budget.
Only a week after breaking the food budget on the big game we now come to Valentine’s Day, where spending money is the expected way to celebrate. The “traditional Valentine’s Day” — including “a dozen red roses, chocolates, a nice dinner for two, jewelry, and champagne” — costs an average of $512. (source) If anyone ever spent that much on me for one day they better be quick on their feet because I will be very angry.
Like many traditions we don’t know much about the origins of Valentine’s Day
There were at least three Saint Valentine’s or Valentinus, all were martyred. One no one knows anything about, of the other two it is believed the one that inspired the holiday was a 3rd century priest who defied Emperor Claudius II who felt soldiers fought better as single men than married men and banned marriage. Valentine secretly performed marriages. While imprisoned for his defiance, it is believed the priest wrote a letter to a girl he fell in love with and signed the letter “From Your Valentine”.
Like many Christian holidays, the date of February 14th was selected not for the birth or death of St. Valentine but to connect it to a Pagan holiday. In this case it was the Pagan holiday of Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman God of Agriculture.
You can learn more about the origins of Valentine’s Day here.
Regardless where the origins started, I see nothing wrong with setting aside a day to express your love for those you hold dear. What I do have a problem with is the expectations that our expressions must include a card, chocolate and flowers at a minimum.
We don’t even get a break after Valentine’s day this year. President’s day is February 15th, the day after we’ve just broke the bank to prove our love. I’m pretty sure our first and sixteenth presidents, Washington and Lincoln, would be rolling in their graves knowing we celebrate their birthdays by going on spending sprees.
President’s day began as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday (February 22) which was moved to the third Monday in February to create more three day weekends for workers. With Abraham Lincoln’s birthday being February 12th the two birthday’s were combined and recognized as President’s day by the 1980s. Today, President’s day is considered to be a day to recognize and celebrate all of our presidents.
What we now call President’s day used to be a day of patriotic spirit. George Washington’s picture and story would grace the front pages of newspapers, several groups including the Boy Scouts would hold celebrations or reenactments, and special masses were held at churches. All these things changed when marketers saw a three day weekend as a time to boost sales.
Forget parades or a day of national volunteering or any other unselfish way of remembering these two presidents who left such a mark on our country. Nope, we go shopping. President’s day sales flyers begin arriving days ahead of time. Banks, schools and many other businesses are closed this day. When we have free time we spend the majority of that time either watching television or shopping.
I wonder if people will get smart and wait to purchase their Valentine candy until the President’s day sales, they could save at least 50%.
Making our Own Traditions
Let’s take make this year the year we break out of the rut and start new traditions.
For Valentine’s day,
- Consider a nice home cooked meal with the family.
- If you want to give a card, make it. Use your own words, not the words found in a pre-printed card.
- If you want to give flowers, consider a flowering bulb or house plant over cut flowers. Cut flowers are usually shipped in this time of year and are heavily sprayed with pesticides.
On President’s Day avoid the stores. If you and your family have the day off from work and school spend it together.
- Talk about what it means to be a citizen of the United States or seek out reenactments or other patriotic events in your area.
- Make this a day of relaxation. In the spirit of having the day off, don’t spend it doing chores.
- Instead of cooking a dinner, have a picnic. If it’s too cold (it is here) spread a blanket on the floor and have a simple “picnic” meal.
If you start planning and practicing this month you’ll be ready next month to create new traditions long before St. Patrick’s Day and Easter come along.
Have you created unique no cost traditions for these holidays?
I’d love to hear your suggestions won’t you leave a comment and share you ideas?