A quick Google search reveals that 145 million Valentine cards are sent annually in the USA alone! But, is Valentine’s day truly a day for romance or just a load of commercialised nonsense?
What is Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day is celebrated annually on the 14th February as a celebration of love by millions around the world. But what are its origins?
The exact origins of this tradition are unclear. However, it has been suggested that the idea of this holiday stemmed from a Roman festival. The festival known as Lupercalia was held in mid-February in celebration of the coming of Spring.
Romelus and Remus, the founders of ancient Rome, were said to have been looked after by a she-wolf in a cave. As such, priests belonging to the order of the Luperci sacrificed a goat for fertility and a dog for purification.
The priests would strip the goat’s hide and dip them into sacrificial blood. Slapping both women and crop fields with the hide believing that both would become more fertile in the coming year.
Pope Gelasius I
Banning the festival due to its violent nature, Pope Gelasius I replaced the same with St. Valentine’s Day. From the 5th Century St. Valentine’s Day honoured Christian martyrs called Valentine. It appears that there were various Valentines who died on the 14th February!
Also around the 5th Century, Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day. Believing this to be a day on which birds chose their mates. Normans also believed that if you dreamed about someone on this day they would become your true love.
Galatin meant lover of women. Given it’s meaning and that it’s name sounds similar to Valentine, the two celebrations may have become confused.
However, it was not until the Middle Ages that saw the first recorded Valentine’s message.
Writing to his wife from his prison cell in the Tower of London in 1415, the Charles the Duke of Orleans talks of his love for his wife and refers to her as “my very sweet Valentine”.
Geoffrey Chaucer also wrote of Valentine’s Day in a romantic manner. In his poem Parlement of Foules Chaucer writes: “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make”.
By 1601, the romantic notion of Valentine’s day as we know it appears to have become part of the English tradition, with William Shakespeare mentioning it in Ophelia’s lament in Hamlet:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.
The Commercialisation of Valentine’s Day
By the late 1700s commercially printed cards became available and by the late 1800s, the tradition was further commercialised, with businesses printing and selling pre-written Valentine’s messages.
Around this time, people also started giving gifts to their loved ones. Chocolates and other sweet treats. Flowers or going on romantic getaways with their partners became popular.
By 1913, Hallmark Cards began mass-producing valentine’s cards and since then the industry has just continued to grow.
Romance or Commercialised Nonsense?
So, is Valentine’s day really a day of romance or have we fallen trap to the industry’s commercialisation of the same?
It is true that the marketing sector continuously push the notion that you must buy your partner that stunning diamond, necklace, bouquet of roses etc to be the perfect partner and show your undying love, but is this really necessary? Some couples will look forward to the day to express their undying love for their partner but, others could think of nothing worse!
And, why is it so much more important on Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year? At the end of the day, why wait for a given day to tell (and show) someone that you love them?
Do we have to spend money on Valentine’s Day at all?
Each couple will have their own notion on the importance (or otherwise) of Valentine’s Day. There is nothing wrong in either approach. Whether you absolutely relish the opportunity to show your love for your significant other or shudder at the thought of expressing your emotions in such a public manner. But, if we go back to the original question of whether the day has become a commercialised nonsense, I believe that many of us will have fallen foul to the marketing hype and at times perhaps overspent on a day on which there is actually no need to spend at all! At the end of the day, it should be a day of showing your partner or other loved ones just how much they mean to you.
No Spend Valentine’s Ideas
- Make your usual dinner a special dinner by lighting some candles and playing some romantic music. Eat at the dinner table instead of in front of the TV
- Prepare a playlist of all your favourite songs to play whilst enjoying dinner (the modern version of a mix tape!)
- Cuddle on the sofa and watch a movie
- Play a Valentine’s Day game.
- Go on a sunset bike ride
- Have a picnic in the park
- Go on a romantic walk in nature
- Put down your electronics and play some board games
- Give your partner a massage
- Make your partner’s favourite dessert
However, you spend Valentine’s Day, we hope you surround yourself with all those who love you. Don’t forget that that does not necessarily just mean a romantic partner. It can be your children, parents, friends.