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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 14, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    New Valentine’s Day rule: only single people get to use the phrase “Hallmark holiday”

    Laura Slattery

    Everyone knows e-cards aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on, but it’s the printed greeting cards industry that gets a proper hard time from people who think mass-produced sincerity is incompatible with how they truly feel. A “Hallmark holiday” is shorthand for dates in the year when naysayers feel guilt-tripped into buying anodyne stuff for the long-term parkers in their lives, and, let’s face it, sometimes it’s just easier to profess repulsion than it is to come up with consumption-free alternatives to mark the occasion.

    Statistically, you are 2,874 times more likely to hear the sneer “Hallmark holiday” applied to Valentine’s Day than to Mother’s Day. Happily, today is Valentine’s Day, so people who consider themselves blissfully paired off but can’t be bothered to go to the shops can simply blurt “Hallmark holiday” in the hope that it all goes away. It probably won’t though. Hallmark is a $4 billion company – a privately owned, Kansas-based king of sales, manufacturing and intellectual property licensing – and it will take more than a recession, a few thousand personalisation apps and a dollop of ennui to unravel it all.

    The “Hallmark holiday” declarers can come across like they believe they’re pointing to some covert retail conspiracy, as if the people who brought us Purple Ronnie and the Cessna-themed “brother” birthday card are engaged in a devious scheme to manipulate our innermost emotions and only they are resolute enough to stand alone from its saccharine tendrils.

    Perhaps that is a more accurate reflection of what’s going on than American Greetings’ description of itself as “a creator and manufacturer of innovative social expression products that assist consumers in enhancing their relationships”. So far, so Facebook. American Greetings, by the way, is the second largest publisher of greeting cards in the world and parent company of such brands as Carlton Cards, Gibson Greetings and Camden Graphics. But “American Greetings holiday” just doesn’t trip off the tongue quite so fast.

    The point is, you only have to have endured one solo February 14th deep in a post-break-up mire to know this: While the sight of slow-walking couples holding hands, heart-shaped helium balloons, ribbon-collared teddy bears and/or cupid’s milk chocolate arrow as they hold up pathway traffic may indeed be gut-wrenching for several reasons, there’s nothing more irksome to a single person than the trill of a coupled-up person who casually asserts the meaningless of the day even as they’re promising their mobiles that yes, they can vacate the table by nine.

    In any case, the Hallmark sentiment-behemoth might have helped popularise Valentine’s Day cards, but it didn’t invent them. The practice of sending cards predates the founding of the company by at least 60 years – a factoid worth keeping in your back pocket if your partner turns out to be a tedious Valentine’s curmudgeon but you haven’t reached that level of jadedness yet. The Hall brothers did lay claim to having invented modern gift wrapping paper, though, so they’re not entirely innocent. And if your partner is allergic to red envelopes, remember to keep some sense of perspective.  It could be worse. They could be “more of a savoury person”.

    • JOD says:

      In China red envelopes are known as ”hong bao” and they’re not used for Valentine cards they’re used for giving monetary presents on festive occasions. Also, for bribing officials and sundry unsavoury persons. Not that I ever, ever did. Just fyi. Here they’d be known as zongse bao maybe. Brown envelopes. If Hallmark could have persuaded Fianna Fail to use red they’d probably be worth more than Apple now.

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