“Then he got an idea!
An awful idea!
GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!”
— How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
The truly terrible smile of the Grinch when he devises his plan to steal Christmas from the Whos is spine-tingling. It is obvious that the thought of ruining the holiday for the good-natured Whos fills him with glee. Although not directly, many are casting the latest variant of COVID in a similar light. Only, this time the holiday being stolen is Valentine’s Day.
The news is rife with stories about supply chain and inflation problems, which are driving the price up on Valentine’s Day staples. Flower shops, for example, are noting an uptick in demand in advance of the holiday as well as a 40% to 50% increase in costs. Even worse for owners, changes and disruptions in the supply chain mean that their perishable product may not arrive in flower-fresh condition. What are valentines to do?
It may be useful to remember that Valentine’s Day has been around much longer than the gift-giving associated with the day. According to History.com, valentine greetings can be traced to the Middle Ages and written valentines to 1400. The valentine’s day card, at least as we think of it, didn’t emerge until the 1840s. The Victorians, who were keen on courting, showered each other with cards and gifts. This created a marketing opportunity that some couldn’t pass up. Esther Howland sold the first mass-produced cards in the 1940s, and Richard Cadbury, who had recently turned excess cocoa butter into eating chocolate, began selling the confection in heart-shaped boxes in 1861.
Some social scientists understand the association of products to Valentine’s Day as a construction about romance. In this case, the construction offers us idealized versions of romance, the what the holiday entails, and how we and our significant other are supposed to act. Ideals, of course, are difficult to achieve. When reality falls short of the romantic notions we see on the screen, we feel dissatisfied and wonder where and how things went wrong. Social scientists suggest that it is worth separating the products we associate with the holiday from the sentiments we are celebrating. The distinction, if nothing else, might make it a bit easier for us to give ourselves a break when we don’t find – or are unable to purchase – the gift of choice.
More importantly, shifting the focus away from supply chains and inflation may make it easier to focus on the emotion the holiday is intended to celebrate – love. Perhaps, if we focus on love our hearts, like that of the Grinch, may grow two sizes that day and fill us with glee.
Dr. Deana Rohlinger is a professor of Sociology and the co-director of research for the Institute of Politics. Her current research explores political polarization and extremism. Learn more about her work at http://www.deanarohlinger.com.