Valentine’s Day is a muddled mix of love and commercialism. Flowers, chocolate, cards, jewelry and hoards of other materialistic goods are purchased during the Valentine’s season to emphasize love for that special someone. About 18 billion dollars are spent every single year on these material goods, but cheery ideas of Cupid and sweet, true love undermine the dark history behind Valentine’s Day.
The idea of the holiday goes all the way back to the third century A.D when an emperor executed two men named Valentine on February 14 of two different year, one of whom was a saint. The martyrdom of the two men started the holiday and was mixed with Galatin day (lover of women) and Lupercia to create a dark festival. Lupercia and Galatin day are drunken holidays of “love” where men and women would be paired together by picking a number from a hat; women were often treated only as a source of sex and not respected. Galatin day was likely confused with Valentine’s Day because they sound alike.
Shakespeare and his sweet sonnets, along with Chaucer, can be thanked for the beginning of the romanticism of Valentine’s Day. In turn the romanticized ideas traveled over to the New World, instead of the truth. When the industrial revolution hit in the 19th century, commercialism for the holiday won the bid over the history. Hallmark Cards started mass publishing cards in 1913, changing the fate of the holiday forever.
It’s not to be said that Shakespeare and Hallmark are the only ones to blame for the loss of the holiday’s original historical significance. Society in general is also to blame for the loss of meaning. Much of the world today is a capitalistic society, so more thought goes into buying and selling products to make profit instead of the cultivation of knowledge of history.
Anyone who buys a gift for his or her special someone is buying into the capitalistic trap of the holiday. Instead of martyrdom the holiday has turned into a day in which love is to be proclaimed, love that should be expressed any other day of the year.
Valentine’s day isn’t a day for history anymore, as it should be. Instead it’s become the ideal day for love. Love could easily be expressed any other day of the year in more understated and sweet ways, yet its saved for this day in particular where showy presents are given. Once again the blame will go back to society. The need to show off and proclaim love in a larger than life way is the root of the cause. For history to be restored, capitalism would need to calm, and the understanding that love can be expressed in a small form would need to be known.