Unless you’ve lived a life of solitary confinement, you’ve likely celebrated Valentine’s Day. Or, at the very least, you’ve heard of it. A popular holiday celebrated annually on February 14th, our celebration of this day began young.
Think back to kindergarten. You know, when your teacher sent you home with a list of your classmates. After showing your parents the list you were sent back the next day with valentines and candy for everyone in class. Now that you’re thinking about it – did it ever end? Did you ever really stop celebrating this holiday? Probably not.
This romantic day is given holiday clearance. It’s celebrated across the globe as a day of love. If you’re in a relationship, Valentine’s Day is regarded a serious event. Gifts are expected and an unrealistic amount of money is set aside for a celebratory dinner.
As a happily single person, you’re expected to feel awkward around this holiday. But why? Why should a holiday retain that much power? Why should it have that big of an influence over your life?
Valentine’s Day – a holiday popularized by the consumer industry – shouldn’t command the stage. It shouldn’t have the ability to control. Still, there is more to this day than we care to think. Its origin might not look terribly gritty from your perspective, but its history makes our celebration of this day all the more interesting.
A Brief History
The lore surrounding the beginnings of this holiday is convoluted. Yet the origin itself – what we do know of it – is dark.
Certain stories tie Valentine’s Day to Ancient Rome. At this time, the Feast of Lupercalia was held on February 15th “…in honor of Lupercus, the god of Fertility,” (Schmitz). Amidst the festivities was animal sacrifice and the striking of people – especially women due to its symbolization of fertility (Schmitz).
Later, two men named Valentine were executed by Emperor Claudius II. These acts occurred during separate years on February 14th throughout the 3rd century A.D. The Catholic Church then honored their deaths through the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day (Seipel). In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I combined Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day in an effort to “…expel the pagan rituals,” (Seipel).
The idea of Valentine’s Day being celebrated as a romantic holiday didn’t actually come into fruition until the 14th century.
Classic playwrights and poets like Shakespeare and Chaucer romanticized the celebration in their writing. After gaining popularity in Europe, the romantic celebration entered the New World.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, Valentine’s Day has become a mass-produced, consumer-rich celebration.
Tokens of love from the Middle Ages – handmade paper cards – transformed into the now popular factory-made cards. Once Hallmark Cards got on board with the celebration in 1913, the holiday’s dark origin lost its edge (Seipel).
To Celebrate, Or Not To Celebrate?
The dark origin of this holiday brings into question its current status in our culture. Why celebrate this consumer-rich celebration with such gusto? Perhaps it shouldn’t be viewed as such a big festivity.
If you consider its past, Valentine’s Day feels like a device; a deceptive ruse merely continued to keep consumers content across the globe. Retail stores attack this holiday like any other – tokens of love and romance are displayed as quickly as possible; flowers, candy, and over-sized stuffed bears line the shelves.
Interestingly, gifts for this occasion have switched gears. Most women would still appreciate a box of chocolates. But the marketing strategies for this holiday have altered drastically. Commercials and advertising pamphlets market new products. Ads emphasize – with deep sincerity – that the gift she’ll truly love is a new cellphone. Thus, electronic tablets are entering the realm of gift giving and picnic luncheons are slowly becoming less apparent.
As we progress, our tastes change. More specifically – the consumer’s taste will change. Thus, it would be inefficient for retail stores to withhold the marketing of their latest laptop model – especially around Valentine’s Day.
February 14th might appear to be a sappy holiday. This notion is, sadly, fiercely supported by product marketers. But consider its history; take a good look at its grip on society.
Valentine’s Day is used to enrich the consumer industry. It’s a sad, but pressing truth. This day may have been romanticized by 14th century playwrights and poets. But it didn’t become an overly-celebrated holiday until the Industrial Revolution.
So – where’s the logic? Why is Valentine’s Day given holiday acknowledgement? In a word – love.
Love, in all forms, is absolutely worth celebrating.
Should we really expect things on February 14th? Should we cater to a holiday riddled with such a dark and questionable past?
You can decide for yourself.
Ultimately, there are some folks who cherish this reminder. People embrace Valentine’s Day because it helps them remember their love amidst chaotic schedules.
Celebrating this holiday for that reason is ideal. Remember – the thought still counts.
Its origin might be uncertain. Its influence on the consumer is remarkable. Still, Valentine’s Day is worth celebrating – even if its history makes it feel less romantic.
Don’t disregard your loved ones on this day. But consider celebrating your love year-round. February 14th is a lovely day to acknowledge and celebrate love. Yet your affections shouldn’t be reserved for one day out of the year.
Avoid the consumer trap if you can. Push for a celebration you needn’t spend your month’s wages on.
Your love – if it’s true – won’t require a new phone to continue.