An estimated one billion Valentine’s Day cards will be sent worldwide this year, making it the second most card-heavy celebration after Christmas. On average, the day even manages to rack in 9.2 billion pounds in retail sales – both rather staggering figures.
But year upon year, why exactly do many of us feel the need to pour out our money into the hands of these corporations? Unlike Christmas, or even Easter, we don’t actually seem to be able to explain why we celebrate it. Surely I can’t be the only one whose knowledge of the day and its social significance is skewed?
But why February 14th? Historians claim that the day is actually grounded in some historical merit. Valentine’s Day is rooted in the Ancient Roman Festival of Lupercalia, a Pagan fertility Celebration commemorated annually on February 14th, which entailed young men stripping naked and using goat or dog-skin whips to spank the backsides of young women in order to improve their fertility.
One can only marvel at how the ritualistic origins of this event evolved into our Modern day Notion of Valentine’s Day – and clearly, the link between the two is tenuous at best. So, February 14th may not be a totally arbitrary day for this celebration of love to occur, but the origins of Valentine’s Day are undoubtedly dubious. Does it not seem a bit odd that many of us seem to take, what is an ultimately an artificial holiday, so seriously?
I distinctly remember my friend being rather distraught one Valentines, due to her boyfriend not even managing to send her a measly card. At the time, my initial response was to condemn him – what could possibly possess someone to not want to celebrate Valentines, particularly if you’re in a committed relationship? Maybe he just genuinely forgot, or maybe he wasn’t really in love with her at all, and this was his way of subtly easing the blow. In retrospect, I would like to believe that he was staunchly anti-capitalist, and believed that Valentines Day represents everything that is wrong with the Establishment.
Of course, there’s good reason to be cynical. In 1913, Hallmark Produced their first Valentine, and ever since, it is has evolved into a day which seems to solely manipulate ‘love’, a way for businesses to cash in on one of our most private, intimate emotions. And yet, we have become mindless consumers who seem to buy into it all, splurging our money on roses, soppy cards and chocolates – all of which to me, lack any real sentiment or thought.
Maybe I’m just a cynic because last year, my only Valentine’s was from my Mum. No wonder I’m so bitter. But even if my hypothetical partner and I were to endorse in all the Valentine’s Shenanigans, somehow, the day still doesn’t scream ‘romance’ to me. Because clearly, the only way a couple can prove their commitment and revel in their devoted love for one another is through buying tacky, materialistic gifts.
You can’t help but admire how Hallmark and the like have succeeded in exploiting a day that doesn’t even really need to exist. But if you, like me, can’t seem to understand the hype around Valentine’s Day then just remember that you don’t need to conform or succumb to the pressures if you don’t want to, whatever your relationship status.