Valentine’s Day: A Hallmark Holiday or Not?
To many, the only appealing thing about Valentine’s Day is the candy that goes on sale the day afterwards. For others, it’s day a dedicated to spend time and money on their sweetheart. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend on average around $137 on Valentine’s Day gifts. Yikes.
Additionally, CNN found that around $1.6 million will be spent on candy en mass, and $18.6 billion in total. With such staggering statistics, it’s no wonder that most people believe that Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark holiday,” created for the sole purpose of taking advantage of consumers and the vulnerability of their love lives.
If Hallmark didn’t invent Valentine’s day, they sure do take advantage of it. The weeks leading up to February 14th are often defined by cheesy Kay Jewelers commercials and grocery store aisles decked out in pink and white. It goes to show that not only does Hallmark reap the benefits of Valentine’s Day, but as do other companies such as jewelry stores and Russell Stover’s.
But in actuality,the holiday has an intricate history behind the red roses of Valentine’s Day.
At least three different saints named Valentine are recognized and martyred by the Catholic Church. Legend has it that one of the Valentine’s was a priest in third century Rome, when Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men so they can serve as soldiers instead. Valentine believed this to be an injustice, and continued to perform marriages in spite of the Emperor’s ruling. Valentine was eventually caught, and then put to death.
Evidence suggests that the Christian Church decided to place Valentine’s Day in February in order to “christianize” the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on February 15th. Lupercalia celebrated Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as founders Romulus and Remus. The celebration was eventually outlawed for being too “un-Christian,” with Pope Gelasius declaring February 14th to be Valentine’s day at the end of the 5th century.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, however, did the day have anything to do with romance. The elements of romance were added as France and England believed that February 14th was the beginning of bird’s mating season. After the year 1400, writing Valentine’s Day greetings became popular in Europe.
Valentine’s Day became popularly celebrated in Great Britain by the 17th century. Starting off with handwritten love notes, it eventually evolved to printed cards in the 1900s due to advancements in technology. By the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America, beginning the tradition that thrives off of capitalism.
So we can’t necessarily blame Hallmark for cursing all the single people with Valentine’s Day. Nonetheless, it is clear that February 14th is more than just it’s printed cards and candy hearts, but is decorated with an intricate history like many other holidays.