by Desmond Devine, NewsFlash Resident Curmudgeon
Valentine’s Day has come once again to entice and torment us all, so it’s time to unravel the tangled history of the holiday. But before that, we must acknowledge the first ASB event of the year: the Love and Kindness Fest. Taking place during an extended lunch (yay!), activities included games such as cornhole and sack races, a scavenger hunt, flower bouquet crafting, and a marriage booth with Polaroid mementos. Much fun, pizza, and candy were had by all!
Leading up to Love Fest, we celebrated a Love and Kindness Spirit Week, which included:
Heart Day: Everyone received a heart-shaped pin — strike that — bracelet to wear during first period — um, wait — seventh period on Monday — nope, make that Tuesday — and guffawed at each other’s corny messages for the rest of the day.
If the pins had this message, I’d wear one every day.
Pajama Day: The obligatory classic. We all know and love this one.
Duo Day: Students wore matching outfits with somebody else. Seems to be an adaptation of the Discord trend.*
*Disclaimer: Nothing stated in this article should be construed as an endorsement or acceptance of the evil scourge known as Discord.
Rose Day: Students were asked to wear Red, Pink, or White outfits to mimic the colors of roses. ASB should know, however, that roses can be yellow and purple, too!
This isn’t just a random image from the internet. I swear, I have a yellow rose bush in my own backyard!
Tie Day: The exact opposite of Pajama Day, where people dressed as if they were going to an actual wedding.
Comfort or style? You decide.
So where does all this celebration of love come from, you may ask? We’re always told that Valentine’s Day is named after St. Valentine, but who exactly is it referring to? There are actually many saints named Valentine or a name similar to Valentine. The name derives from the Latin word “Valentinus”, meaning powerful. One popular tale depicts a priest named Valentine who went against an unjust law formed by Emperor Claudius II in third century Rome, which prohibited young adults from being married. This Valentine was executed for continuing to marry younger couples. A bishop, St. Valentine of Terni, who was also executed by Claudius II, is another potential contender.
St. Valentine healing prisoners. St. Valentine is the patron saint of epilepsy, and some believed that he helped or even cured people with the disorder.
One legend states that, while Valentine was on death row, he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, who he had cured of blindness, and sent her a letter addressed “From Your Valentine”. In the story, this would be the first valentine ever sent.
Valentine’s Day is believed to have originated from the celebration of Lupercalia. It took place on February 15th, honoring the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus. Traditions included sacrificing a goat, soaking its hide in its blood, and brushing the hide against crop fields for fertility. This holiday was banned by Pope Gelasius in the fifth century for being paganistic, i.e. just a bit too bloody, and soon the 14th of February was declared St. Valentine’s Day.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that Valentine’s Day was associated with love. In France and England, people believed that February 14th was the start of birds’ mating seasons, and a poet named Geoffrey Chaucer wrote Parliament of Foules, the first written work that described Valentine’s Day as a celebration of romance. It was written in 1375, an interesting coincidence due to that being in the 14th century. In the 1400s, valentine greetings started to become popular. The oldest one was written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was in the Tower of London as a prisoner of the Battle of Agincourt.
This is the actual valentine of 1415. Cue the “And I can’t even get a text back” jokes!
A long time later, during the mid-18th century, it became commonplace for all types of people to exchange valentines. The mass production of valentines became a profitable business, with Valentine’s Day cards emerging in the early 20th century. And so, Valentine’s Day went from a day of simply expressing love for others to a breeding ground for companies like Hallmark, which sells around 131 million cards a year along with Christmas ornaments and home decor. And don’t forget those corny Christmas films!
Commercial aspects of the modern Valentine’s Day
As mentioned, Valentine’s cards are very popular with people who celebrate the holiday, with around 190 million valentines being sent every February 14th, the second-most for any holiday observed in the US, surpassed only by Christmas. This amount doesn’t include the millions exchanged at elementary schools between students. One billion dollars are spent on candy and chocolates, which include 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and 7 billion Sweethearts candies sold each Valentine’s Day. Necco, the company which started printing messages on heart-shaped lozenge candies in 1866, went bankrupt in 2018 and sold the candy to Spangler, which has been producing the candies since 2020.
Seriously, who would want to go out with someone who unironically likes these puns?
According to an Ipsos poll conducted in 2022, flowers gifted on Valentine’s Day account for 30% of the flowers sold for the entire year. Flowers are a widely known gift to give to a loved one on Valentine’s Day, with about 250 million roses being grown for the holiday alone. Red roses are greatly associated with love, and were considered the favorite flower of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite (known in Roman mythology as Venus). Fun facts: more men buy flowers for their beloved than women, and more women buy flowers for themselves than men.
While Valentine’s Day is more commercialized than ever before, we all should remember the original meaning of the holiday and take time to express our gratitude for our family, friends, and significant others. However, if you’re concerned about not having any significant others, no worries! Always remember…
The truth, and nothing but the truth
Happy Valentine’s Day!