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Valentine's Day 2015: A celebration of love, not romance?

As Google unveils its Valentine's Day 2015 doodle, it reminds us to show a little kindness to each other, but new research suggests we are already celebrating the holiday of romance a little differently.

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As the annual parade of love and consumerism marches toward us, Google decided to take a different approach to the typical Valentine’s Day themes.

For 2015, instead of Google’s animated letters sitting down to a candlelit dinner or proposing to one another, Google decided to display how “technology brings people together.” The animations show random acts of kindness and are meant to highlight appreciation for each other, whether that be sending a heart-warming text or letting someone borrow your laptop charger.

This “restore faith in humanity” approach is refreshing in a holiday of cliches. Valentine’s Day is almost always divided into two different groups: gluttonous couples and cynical singles. But just as Google wanted to show how technology can bring people together, it is also a sign of changing times. As Valentine’s Day moves into the 21st century, and societies become more inclusive, there are other things besides romance to celebrate on Valentine’s Day. This holiday is no longer just for lovers.

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According to new research by Influence Central, a specialty marketing consultant group, those who reap the biggest rewards from the holiday appear to want something more valuable than diamonds.

Influence Central surveyed 600 women and found that less then 50 percent saw Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday and nearly 70 percent saw it as a day to spend with cherished family and friends. Of all those surveyed, nearly 80 percent said they would be celebrating with their children.

“Kids have become very much a part of that celebration, and it’s also a way of reaching out to friends and recognizing this larger ethos of letting people know how much they care,” chief executive officer Stacy DeBroff says. “What our survey found is this tremendous transformation of what has been a very romantic [holiday] and instead has changed in terms of how it’s being celebrated across the United States.”

Of the women surveyed, 62 percent were planning on a quiet dinner at home and 69 percent planned on buying gifts for kids.

“It’s been a holiday that’s been so attributed to going out and candles and chocolates ... and instead it’s focusing on this larger sense of gifting,” Ms. DeBroff says. “For example, flowers and jewelry, which have traditionally been associated with the holiday, are only 30 percent of the budget [this year] ... because we’re not in the heart of the economic recession, it's not that people can’t go out, it's that they’re opting to celebrate in a more inclusive way.”

Women are not the only ones turning the traditional sense of Valentine’s Day on its head. Americans born after 1995 are not only bringing real-world issues and dry humor to the romantic holiday, but also a humbleness.

A joint survey by Bottlenose and Fung Business Intelligence Centre titled “love is in the air” surveyed American spending habits for this V-Day and found that the younger generation was partial to handmade or personalized gifts. #Handmade and #Etsy were in the top 15 most referenced hashtags leading up to Valentine’s Day week. Now, #boycott did not beat out #love on the charts, but it did rank higher than #gift and #giveaway.

“In social media and online conversations, giveaways and contests have taken a backseat to real-world issues in 2015, while smaller trends surface around do‐it-yourself audiences championing hand-made, personalized gifts," the report states. “This is relevant, considering the female empowerment issue highlighted by younger crowds.”

Times are changing, and so is Valentine’s Day.

“We have moved from materialism into more celebrations of the heart,” says DeBroff. “People’s lives are increasingly busy and they want to take a moment to really let people know how much they care about them, and this has become the trigger to do that.... I think [there's] a sense we do not take the time in our busy lives to celebrate the breadth of relationships that truly matter to us.... It’s really focused on the message of ‘did I remind you how much I love you?’ ”

As the old-school tradition meets a new generation of consumers and empowered individuals, Valentine’s Day looks like it's being transformed into a celebration of love rather than romance.

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