Valentines Day: cuddly or consumerist?

Baroque rejection / Contributed


Every year in February as Valentine’s day approaches America separates into two polar opposite groups. Those who argue that it is an entirely made-up corporate holiday that holds little value or sentimentality and those who love the romanticism of Valentine’s day. However, there are very few who remember what the holiday originally was.

Valentine’s day first began in the middle ages as a feast day for a few different Saint Valentines whose stories varied, but who all are said to have died in Roman times. The fourteenth of February is a rather strange day for a holiday considering that it is neither the birth nor death day of Saint Valentine in Church calendars. It is argued by many historians that the feast day of Saint Valentine might have been pushed back to such a date as a Christianization of the Roman Holiday Lupercalia which occurred at a similar time and had a component involving the random pairing of young and eligible Romans, which is perhaps the first origin of the romance we now associate with Saint Valentine’s day.

Notions of love were later tied once again to Valentine’s day in the 14th and 15th centuries when it was widely believed by Europeans that February 14 was the day birds’ mating seasons started. This eventually led to aristocrats in Europe associating the day with their own love and they often wrote poems and love songs about and on the day. This is also when cupid, a Roman figure who distributed love on behalf of his mother Venus, first began to appear in association with Valentine’s day.

Throughout the years Valentine’s day grew more popular, and the sending of Valentines was a major part of the holiday. In the 19th century, the first stamped greeting cards were produced as a low-effort alternative to the traditional handwritten Valentine. After the print Valentine the commercialization of Valentine’s day truly began, with new traditions and excesses being popularized by the marketing teams of companies like Cadbury chocolates, the first company to sell special Valentine’s chocolates.

Although over the years Valentine’s day has become all about love and money, it has routes in Roman courting and Christian martyrdom. Valentine’s day proves that very few Holidays are really what we expect them to be at first glance, and even fewer are exclusively created by corporations to take our money.