The business of holidays

7:26 pm - February 16th 2013

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by Jenna Smith

Over the years all of the holidays have become more commercial. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is a holiday that seems like it should be about showing someone special how much you care about them. Over the years, though, it has become more (if the commercials are to be believed) about how lavish a gift you can buy for someone.

Where the economy is concerned, this is actually a good thing. According to, Valentine’s Day is a $16 billion dollar industry in which people spend, on average, $116 on gifts, etc.

People are spending more money trying to prove to each other that they care. They are buying gifts, going out for meals, etc. All of this pumps money into the economy. That money helps keep businesses open and people employed.

Obviously it isn’t just Valentine’s Day that helps businesses turn a profit. Pretty much every holiday encourages consumer spending. Each major holiday involves some major gift giving: for significant others, for friends, for grandparents, for classmates and coworkers…you get the idea. Even Arbor Day encourages people to visit their local nurseries to buy trees!

On the one hand, this is good: our economy is in desperate need of stimulus right now. 2012’s 4th quarter (the quarter that most businesses count on to be so profitable to keep them in the black throughout the rest of the year) wasn’t as profitable for businesses as it has been in previous years. So any money that can be recouped through Valentine’s Day is welcome.

The variety that this kind of economic competition inspires is also amazing. Everywhere you look the gifts are getting more creative and expansive. This can be helpful if you’re having a difficult time coming up with ideas on your own.

It can also add quite a lot of pressure to the gift giving situation. Many people feel intimidated by the lavishness they see displayed on television as ads for the upcoming holidays are run. The increased commercialization of these holidays has made gift giving almost a competitive sport. Instead of trying to find the gift that best epitomizes the relationship, people are made to feel like their gifts need to measure up or outshine the gifts that others are giving or getting. This puts lots of added pressure on to something that is supposed to be fun and thoughtful, which can make the gift, ultimately, mean less.

Try to remember that, in spite of what the ads say, how you celebrate the holidays is up to you. Where Valentine’s Day is concerned, it is absolutely possible to have a romantic date and give a romantic gift without spending very much (if any) money at all. If you want to have a perfect holiday celebration, do what feels right for you and the other people with whom you are celebrating. If going out for a fancy dinner and buying expensive gifts are things you all enjoy, do that. If not, don’t.

It really is that simple.

Jenna is a freelance writer who most often writes about personal finance, business, and sometimes politics. She writes more at
Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this article

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