Sweet or sickly: The Valentine’s Day divide

I heart U: YouGov surveyed US adults in January 2017. The remaining 9% gave other responses.

Today, couples around the world will show their affection with flowers, cards and messages of love. But research shows that nearly half of us cannot wait for it to be over.

Love hearts, red roses, chocolates, cards… Valentine’s Day is here! Across the world, lovebirds are exchanging heartfelt gifts over romantic, candle-lit meals…

Feeling a bit queasy? You are not alone. According to YouGov, almost half of US adults think Valentine’s Day is “overrated”, compared with 43% who describe the day as “romantic”.

Both married and single people are most likely to think the day is overrated. Only people who said they are “in a relationship” were more likely to think the holiday is romantic. Out of all age groups, young people aged between 18 and 34 were more likely to get starry-eyed over February 14, while older people had grown more cynical.

For some people, especially singles, Valentine’s Day stirs up very strong emotions.

“I would like to extend a warm thanks to Hallmark, the official sponsor of Valentine’s Day, for reminding me that without a significant other, how truly worthless my life is,” replied a participant to one survey.

But lots of us just do not like Valentine’s Day, regardless of our relationship status. Here, psychology could hold the key.

According to “resistance theory”, when people feel like they are being told to act in a certain way, they are less likely to want to do so.

Valentine’s Day can inspire this particular resistance, especially among natural rebels, because there is so much pressure to buy gifts and express your feelings on the day. People with high levels of neurosis and those with avoidant attachment styles are also more likely to feel worse on February 14.

Where did Valentine’s Day come from anyway?

The holiday takes its name from St Valentine, a Christian saint. There are conflicting legends about him, but one popular story holds that he secretly married Roman soldiers and their lovers, who were forbidden to wed in third century Rome in case they got distracted from battle. For this, he was beheaded by Emperor Claudius II.

Over time, his saint’s day merged with the pagan festival of fertility, Lupercalia, which was celebrated in mid-February.

The first valentine was written in the 1400s by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, but the practice of sending cards boomed in the Victorian era. Today, more than one billion valentine cards will be sent across the globe.

Be mine

What is love really about? Grand gestures? Heartfelt words? Or can love be quiet and un-showy? For many, true love is something that grows over a lifetime: one day is nothing.

Has commercialisation made Valentine’s Day meaningless? Or does the day, in fact, unfairly shame single people? In long-term relationships, romance often gets lost amid the mundane demands of day-to-day life. Perhaps it’s good to take a day to put love back in the spotlight?

You Decide

  1. Does true love exist?
  2. Should Valentine’s Day be abolished?


  1. Write a short poem about Valentine’s Day. It can be positive or negative, heartfelt, funny or sad.
  2. Make a presentation about the origins and history of Valentine’s Day. Try and find out about some unusual Valentine’s Day traditions from across the centuries.

Some People Say...

“People who are sensible about love are incapable of it.”

Douglas Yates

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 every year. However, in places like Russia, the Eastern Orthodox Church marks Valentine’s Day on July 6 or 30. According to some historians, the first time St Valentine’s Day was associated with love is in medieval writer Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules, which was written in 1382.
What do we not know?
We don’t yet know how much money the UK has spent on Valentine’s Day this year, but it’s likely to exceed the £1.5 billion we spent on the holiday in 2017. On average, men spend £40 for the day, while women spend about half of that amount. We’re also not sure who St Valentine was as there were several Christian martyrs with the name.

Word Watch

Being generally distrustful of human sincerity.
The oldest and largest greeting card company in the US.
People who are more neurotic tend to overthink situations, and be more anxious and introverted.
Attachment theory claims that a person’s relationship style is shaped by their early relationship with their parents. Avoidant types tend to protect themselves from hurt by rejecting intimacy and keep their partners at arm’s length.
St Valentine
According to another story, while St Valentine was awaiting execution he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and wrote her a letter with the sign-off, “from your Valentine”.
A festival celebrated in the city of Rome on the ides of February, which falls between the 13th and 15th. During the celebrations, men and women would have their names drawn and be randomly paired. If the match was successful, they would marry soon afterwards.
He wrote poetry while he was imprisoned by the English in the Tower of London after being captured at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.


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