Valentine’s Day: A History, A Hatred

valentinesI’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. I’m not simply speaking from my own experiences, which have been as a rule, less than romantic in each of the past 12 years that I’ve had someone to share it with. I had great distaste for the day even then, and now, through the skeptical and inquisitive mind that got me into this writing thing, I’d like to just point out a few flaws I find with the holiday, both historically and in modern times.

In the Beginning

So there are actually several Valentines who have acquired sainthood, and even a pope with the name of Valentine, so it isn’t completely clear which of these saints have the honor of this certain posthumous celebration.

The most commonly accepted myth which is shared as the truth is that of a certain Christian Priest in third century Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided to place a ban on marriages for young men in order for them to better concentrate on battle, Valentine continued conducting marriages privately for young lovers. When he was discovered doing so, he was sentenced to death.

The myth continues (although there is now way of knowing if this is the story of the same guy, keep in mind), that while imprisoned, he fell deeply in love with a young girl; the jailer’s daughter. Upon their last meeting, he handed her a written note signed “From your Valentine.”

Tell me that doesn’t sound vaguely familiar.

So, really it’s all rumors, and it’s possible that these stories could have simply been the dreaming of some random romantic.

 An Alternative to Saints

Many who believe that Valentines did not start as a Christian celebration, have an altogether different perspective. The pagan festival of Lupercalia, celebrated in the middle of February, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

Roman priests would make sacrifices for fertility and purification, and then use strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take them to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the hide. Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year.

I suppose stranger things have happened… and at least this is recorded pagan tradition.

Medieval to Modern

The 14th of February was declared St. Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius, and the pagan rituals were outlawed by the church. It was far later, however, before the day took on a much more romantic meaning.

During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in the Western European countries that February 14th marked the beginning of the birds’ mating season, which gave more of a tendency to view it as a romantic time.

Valentine greetings while common but not definitely recorded until a poem written in 1425 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

The people of England and France long exchanged written greetings and tokens of love and appreciation on this day and continue to do so to this day.

Enough with the History Lesson…

These are the stats on V-Day:

  • 1 billion Valentines cards are sent each year, making it the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.
  • Women purchase 85% of all Valentines.
  • 448 million dollars are spent on candy the week before Valentines
  • 58 million pounds of chocolate are purchased the week before Valentines
  • 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are purchased the week before Valentines
  • 8 billion Sweethearts candy are produced each year for Valentines, which is enough to stretch from Rome, Italy to Valentine, Arizona 20 times
  • Only 62% of adults celebrate Valentines

(The numbers behind these bullet points can be found in this History.com infographic)

Reasons I don’t like Valentine’s Day

  • It cheapens the expression of love to a premade card, generic bouquet, and a box of heart shaped chocolates which, while I love chocolate, don’t need
  • People feel obligated to get their significant other something that will express their love, when sometimes, time is more important than a thing
  • Girls who say they want nothing for Valentines and then spend the next week complaining that they didn’t get anything
  • Guys who complain that there is “nothing in Valentine’s Day” for them
  • Singles in general feel alienated and awkward, and (let’s face it) slightly jealous while living in a day which has rendered them invisible.
  • Expression of love and valuing people in your life should be a daily occurrence, not something you go all out with on one particular day because commercialism says so.

I’d like to thank History.com as my primary resource for this historical and personal rant.

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3 comments

  1. Expression of love and valuing people in your life should be a daily occurrence, not something you go all out with on one particular day because commercialism says so.

    by this same argument, shouldn’t we also do away with Christmas presents? I think so.

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