Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Valentine's day is one of those holidays that either you celebrate or you don't. It's easier to forget than other holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and Halloween...unless you're in a relationship. If you don't have a significant other, then you probably hate this holiday and wish it would just get over with. If you do have someone...well....the day can still be painful. If you forget this holiday while in a relationship, you lose. I'm almost just talking to guys. This is an important day, unless your interest doesn't care, then you're off the hook! But don't assume that they don't care. That's a big mistake. Ugh...this holiday is stressful. It didn't used to be like this. Surprisingly though, valentine's day isn't a very old holiday. It's only really come into it's own as a holiday in the 1800's. But what about before that?

Valentine's day, or Saint Valentine's day is based off this specific saint. There are many St. Valentine's in history, so nobody is really sure which one is attributed to the holiday. The legend of one of the St. Valentine's goes like this: St. Valentine is a persecuted Christian and is interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius is impressed with Valentine and tries to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refuses and tries to convert Claudius instead. This leads to Valentine being sentenced to death. Before he was killed though, he performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. Since this story still provided no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. The most popular version of the story, though there is no historical evidence, is that Valentine gave a card to the jailer's daughter whom he healed, whom he considered his beloved, and signed it "From your Valentine."

A day being attributed to Valentine wasn't mentioned until Geoffrey Chaucer mentioned it in a poem. After that, the actual day was pegged on February 14th due to the establishment of the "High Court of Love" in Paris in 1400. The court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. The day further became a day of courting during the Renaissance and further on.

In 1797, a book called The Young Man's Valentine Writer was published, which gave men scores of sentimental verses to recite to their sweethearts. The business of valentine's day cards was born around this time too, as people were able to send these valentine's cards to people anonymously through the mail if they chose. Even though it was Victorian times, people were sending racy cards anonymously through the mail. The Victorian age in Britain also promoted the giving of flowers and chocolates to your sweetheart on the day. By the 1840's, the valentine's day fever had spread to America. Not much has changed since then. We still are encouraged to buy chocolates and flowers for our other half. We still give out a bunch of cartoon valentine's day cards to all of our friends in school and hope that after all the effort we put into making that shoe box look nice and cutting a hole in the top, we might just get the most cards. I'm having terrible elementary school flashbacks. Why did I buy Lion King ones so many years?

The biggest addition to the "things you're supposed to give your loved one" is jewelry. In the 1980's, jewelry stores realized that they could be cashing in off this holiday too and insisted that if a women didn't get an set of earrings or a necklace from her boyfriend/husband then he's just a cheap jerk. Counting children valentine's day cards, America produces about 1 billion valentine's day cards a year. With the rise of the internet, some people have chosen to keep it simple and just send an e-card, though I haven't seen one those in eight years.

Though Valentine's Day has kind of a murky beginning and it's hard to really associate it with love and affection, it has turned into just that. Sweetest Day is the cousin to Valentine's Day, but nobody really cares about that holiday. Don't forget Love Day, made up by the greeting card companies after the success of Christmas 2.

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