According to the BBC website, the origins of Valentine’s day go back to third century Rome and a priest named St Valentine. He arranged marriages in secret after Emperor Claudius II banned it because “he thought married men were bad soldiers”. When Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. He apparently fell in love with the daughter of the jailer and when he was sentenced to die, he wrote her a love letter on 14 February, signed “Your Valentine”. That is one version.
History.com has a cute little video about the beginnings of Valentine’s Day right up to it’s modern day transformation of commercial ‘couples in love’ celebration. The statistics in this video, which are American-centric, are staggering. According to the video, more than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold each in the US and 220 million roses are produced for this holiday alone.
But in a series explored by NPR, the dark origins can be linked to Rome and the feast of Lupercalia. “The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain”. Women would line up to be beaten by drunk naked Roman men because this would make them fertile. The history, thereafter, gets a bit murky.
In 15th Century Britain, the holiday became romanticised and hand made cards became a ‘thing’. Towards the end of the 19th Century, the industrial revolution came. Factory-made cards were produced to celebrate the day, en masse, and of course, companies like Hallmark grew. Now it is one of the most commercialised days of the year and brings in big dollars.
IBISworld research in 2014 found that Australians will spend approximately $791.4 million in anticipation of February 14. If you take a closer look at the graph, $441.6 million is spent on travel, alone. Kind of blows your mind, doesn’t it?
Valentine’s Day is commercial and tacky. Giving someone a heart-shaped box of chocolates that somehow encapsulates your love on one day of the year seems a little contrived. Perhaps if couples tried demonstrating small acts of love each day instead of waiting for that one day of the year may alter the divorce statistics.
I like the idea of the alternative, SAD – Single Awareness Day. Celebrated on February 15, the day after Valentine’s Day, it acknowledges the growing number of single households all over the world and the number of people who choose to be single. It is OKAY to be single. It is OKAY to be proud to be single.