Cheap Valentines' Day Gifts and the Temple of Romance
Monday, January 18, 2010

It's not just an old song, love really does make the world go round. Love, in all its forms, is pretty crucial for everyone's well-being, not to mention our continued existence as a species. And so, Valentine's Day is a centuries old celebration that is here to stay. Still, just because we all want to remind someone special of our love doesn't necessarily mean we're made of money. That's why, especially in tough times, cheap Valentine's Day gifts are more popular than ever and, while deals, discounts, and closeouts never sound particularly romantic, they still can help grease the wheels of love.

As holidays go, Valentine's Day is not without controversy. It doesn't help that, on any given February 14th, a significant percentage of us might not feel too well inclined towards romance. These are the people for whom the day gets renamed "Singles Awareness Day. (S.A.D., get it?) Still, while chronic cynics will never leave us, the following year, lots of those same people might be amongst the biggest sentimentalists on the planet, extolling the praises of their new love and buying out the Valentines Day sections in bulk at their local retailers. Even Saint Valentine himself is a figure shrouded in some mystery, with more than one Christian saint bearing the name and very little being known about any of them. Still, an unconfirmed legend has one of the Valentines as a third-century cleric defying an order by the Roman Emperor Claudius II, who had outlawed marriage for young men as a means of bolstering military recruitment.

The modern Valentine's Day may have begun in earnest when French nobility set up a "high court of love" to settle amorous disputes on February 14, 1400. Prior to that, Valentine's day may (or may not) have been referenced in a poem by England's first great poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, but is most definitely referred to at the start of the 17th century in a moving passage uttered by the heartbroken Ophelia from Shakespeare's Hamlet. By the 19th century, Valentines were being mass produced and the commercialization of the holiday was well under way.

At a certain point, the holiday even began to be detached to some degree from purely romantic love to platonic forms of love. Today, most children and some adults send Valentines to their parents. It has even become a normal part of the American school year, with children in the early grades in school all-but forced to issue blanket Valentines to their entire class, from childhood crushes and best friends to worst enemies, as teachers and administrators struggle to try and prevent hurt feelings. As students hit puberty and hurt feelings become utterly inevitable, cash-strapped school uses Valentine's Day dances, candy grams, and the like as highly effective fund-raising devices. Of course, with adulthood, the trend continues and retailers of all sorts reap the benefits.

Still, especially in times like these when consumers are trying their hardest to keep costs down while still staying close to their loved ones, inexpensive Valentines gifts are solid perennials for retailers. Starting with inexpensive holiday themed jewelry with such ever-popular motifs as hearts and flowers as well as more utilitarian items like pens and pencils, young people seeking items for friends, parents, and sweethearts are consistent strong sellers. Stuffed animals, especially teddy bears, are another popular choice and not only with children; many adults have never outgrown a love of plush toys and they make a popular accompaniment to candy and/or flowers.

Specially designed and scented candles are a somewhat more adult gift that are often available as wholesale closeouts and bulk deals. There's no denying that cheap Valentine's Day gifts remain a very profitable holiday for retailers, but that doesn't mean the cynics are right. Helping customer to celebrate their love for those closest to them is easily one of the sweetest things a retailer can do.

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