Up until recently, I spent the majority of my Valentine’s Days single. Most of the stereotypical messages and images surrounding the “holiday” have to do with the juxtaposition between the joy of romance and the sadness of isolation. For 19 years I was single on Valentine’s Day, but I was definitely never alone.
Emotions are powerful, and marketers know that. I think the Simpson’s episode “Trash of the Titans” satirizes Valentine’s Day the most effectively. I’m going to let some screen caps do the talking.
Fearing the “summer lull” the marketers at Costington’s set out to to come up with another holiday which will push the the consumption of gifts, cards and “assorted gougables”.
Their brilliant solution? Love Day!
“They didn’t have Lord Huggington?” “It’s the same basic bear Homer….”
I initially set out to look up this episode for this post today, just for a light spin on a holiday that is often taken a little too seriously. But in watching and thinking more about Valentine’s Day I became a little curious. How the hell did this even become a holiday? Was it a simply ridiculous marketing tactic as the Simpson’s seems to suggest?
In my brief research on Valentine’s Day I was pretty unsurprised to discover that its origins are pretty ambiguous and unknown, stemming from a few different legends. But in each story I read there was a pattern: some guy with the name Valentine (usually a Saint of some sort, at least according to both Protestant and Catholic stories) who would marry people against the will of the leadership at the time; the night before his execution he writes a last letter to his own lover and signs it “Love your Valentine”.
Now here’s where I become skeptical: apparently the date of Saint Valentine’s execution was February 14, 270AD and it became a day of celebration for Christian love, because he refused to give up performing a ceremony directly associated with his religion. There are typically many discrepancies with any sort of religious or historical account, especially when they date so far back as in this case. There are also conflicting views on the time period when Valentine’s Day actually came to be celebrated in a similar fashion to the way it is today. Apparently a 14th century poet, Chaucer, was the first one to really associate it with romantic love in Medieval France and England, using the image of birds during the mating season to symbolize lovers on February 14th.
“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.” (Read more at http://www.theholidayspot.com/valentine/history_of_valentine.html)
This is where all the historical details become really unclear. Inspired by Chaucer, everybody starts to write handmade cards and give gifts, then Capitalism gets in on the action and now we have this dichotomy between “single” and “taken” that is reinforced by whether or not you are loved enough to receive a Valentine.
It may seem a bit insensitive for me to talk about it now that I’m in a happy relationship and technically “celebrating” the day but I really feel like Valentine’s Day isn’t, and shouldn’t be, about romance. Why should a commercial holiday dictate the conditions and people you express your love to? When I was little, my parents and grandparents would always give me gifts for Valentine’s Day, and they still continue the tradition to this day and one thing it’s taught me is that today should be about love in general. If you love your family, your friends and whoever else you are lucky enough to have in your life then show them! Valentine’s Day is going to be around whether we like it or not so we might as well embrace it. So with this I say: Happy Love Day everyone!!!