For centuries St. Valentine has been the patron of love and lovers, providing individuals with the nudge to move a relationship forward. International shipments of red roses have enriched the economies of Colombia, Ecuador, and Kenya by hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the time to revisit Valentine’s Day as to its meaning and make plans to restructure its impact.
Valentine’s Day has already undergone significant expansion. Its celebration has grown from a small parish to half of the globe. It has become, in some of the wealthier countries, an important gift-giving occasion. Gifts have become differentiated by gender. Men consistently give more than women; perhaps because they wish for a foundation, while many women see decoration. The typical gifts are jewelry, roses, or dinner. As reported by the National Retail Federation of America, more than $810 million worth of Valentine’s Day gifts are given to pets.
The timing of Valentine’s Day has expanded as well. In Korea and Japan, romantic gifts are given on March 14, one month later than in the United States. The product pallet has become more diverse: for example in Denmark, instead of roses, one exchanges pressed white flowers. In the Philippines, on February 14, small events are increasingly supplanted by large ceremonies and mass weddings. Italians, instead of smelling the roses, listen to the reading of poetry and eat chocolate hazelnut kisses also known as baci. In South Africa the name of a beloved one is written on one’s shirtsleeves.
Some governments consider the Valentine’s Day as unreligious and ban its celebration. By contrast, increasingly, on Valentine’s Day one does not just recognize the one you love, but also family and friends. The Pope in Rome has been known to carry flowers with him on that special day.
In sum, Valentine’s Day has taken on a wider mission, diversified its outreach, and introduced more flexibility in terms of timing, product, message, and interaction with more people. Most importantly, it has propagated quite successfully the message of interaction, proximity, hugs, and love.
The next step should encourage this expansion and integrate it more with our lives as business people, policymakers, or consumers. Here are some suggestions how Valentine’s Day as a widening construct can serve to incorporate present-day realities and future-day outlook. To nudge things along, recommendations are included for appropriate commemorative gifts.
For President Trump: A cake with many candles but little sugar for providing many occasions of hope, change, and new perspectives.
For Kim Jong-un of North Korea: a candle signifying the love of your people and in appreciation for not blowing up nuclear devices.
For the U.S. Congress: A “like” card for constituents to send to their own representative; to be accompanied by a “you can do better” card for the rest of the institution.
For the global trade community: A “tough love” card, which allocates specific responsibilities for rules and tasks to be changed, accompanied by jovial if not hearty messages indicating that “we understand.”
For Prime Minister May: some nontear tissues—to dry the eyes—we won’t break away.
For people both domestic and foreign who were struck by natural disasters or poverty: a red envelope with a check inside.
For tax payers: no plastic but a paper bag; their reductions are more than just crumbs.
For corporations: a colorful map showing new investment opportunities with large benefits.
To the Twitter company: some tightly packed characters showing concern.
For media: some loosely sourced but highly emotional news stories showing respect.
To the world at large: the form of messages and hugs represent how different cultures take different approaches to love; to get there, a relationship has to come first; joint efforts will help.
To my personal small world: humongous love to wife Ilona and daughter Margaret; your gift; anything you want.