IS VALENTINE’S DAY A HALLMARK HOLIDAY?
Every single Valentine’s day (and the days leading up to it) you’ll have two types of people: you either celebrate or appreciate Valentine’s Day and think it’s a nice way to celebrate love, or you hate it and think it’s just a way for businesses to rake in some extra cash.
Both sides of the debate have merit, but I really want to research into it and see whether Valentine’s Day really is just a gimmick, or whether it’s a ‘proper’ holiday that deserves the fuss.
Valentine’s Day originates from Saint Valentine. Valentine was a priest who performed secret marriages when marriage for young men was outlawed in Rome (under the premise that unwed men made better soldiers). There’s also a legend that he sent a letter to a lover after being imprisoned and signed it ‘from your Valentine’, which is a phrase used today in Valentine’s Day card. Whatever story is true – if it is true – Valentine became one of the most popular saints in England and France.
The date – 14th February – is supposed to be around the time that Saint Valentine died or was buried. However, there’s also the theory that it’s a way of Christianising the Pagan festival of Lupercalia, which is a fertility festival. Lupercalia was outlawed as un-Christian in the 5th Century when the Pope announced Valentine’s Day as February 14th. The idea that it was a day to celebrate love didn’t arrive until the 1400s.
Now, as I’m sure you’re aware, Valentine’s Day is a time to go on a date with a partner, exchange cute gifts, flowers and chocolates, send anonymous cards to a secret crush, and to enjoy the abundant themed things to buy and browse in shops.
The focus seems to be on gifting now, with multiple companies creating Valentine’s themed gifts, like chocolates, toys, decorations, makeup, jewellery and so on.
The advertising for Valentine’s Day is definitely hyped up and you can’t walk down your high street without being bombarded with hearts and a red/pink colour scheme. It’s easy to see how people would assume that the holiday is mostly just a commercial thing.
The original Christian Valentine’s Day was a simple feast to celebrate the life of the saint, which then developed into a day to celebrate love and share handwritten letters with loved ones. Now it’s an excuse for a date night and a present or two.
Businesses have been Valentine’s-ing seemingly random things in order to make a sale, selling things like banners and games for a Valentine’s party, and even developing a new type of Valentine’s – Galentine’s – to celebrate platonic relationships and/or singledom.
As well as the commercialism of what was a very different festival, there’s also the criticism that Valentine’s Day is another way of enforcing western ideals of dating and romance onto other cultures. Many countries around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day in similar ways, despite not being Christian countries and generally ‘doing’ relationships differently.
Finally, there is the slightly feminist way to look at it – in (usually older) television shows and films, being single on Valentine’s Day was seen to be the worse thing to happen, with a single woman absolutely needing to find a date for the big day, otherwise she would have ‘lost’ and incomplete without a man to treat her. I feel like now, with a more modern society, and with the inclusion of Galentine’s, this trope is a little less prominent, at least.
Despite the history, despite the development of the holiday into something different and despite the commercialism, I do actually appreciate Valentine’s Day. Now, I’m an atheist, so I can’t say how I’d feel if I was religious and saw how commercialised the holiday is (same with Christmas and Easter, I suppose), but I think it’s a great excuse to go out for dinner, give your loved one a gift, or just exchange cards with a crush.
Of course, if you’re in love you don’t need a special day to prove it, but it’s always great to have an excuse to do something different. I also like that there’s the inclusion of Galentine’s (or Palentine’s for the boys), so everyone has a chance to celebrate! Yes, it may be a huge ploy to sell red and pink things, but you don’t need to buy it. Just do what makes you happy! If you don’t have a date, celebrate self-love or spend time with friends; if you’re in a relationship, do something together (I’m going to McDonalds..). Love love!