Few holidays are more contested than Valentine’s Day.
For some, it’s an opportunity to remind their loved ones how deeply they care, and spoil them with special gifts and extra attention. For others, the day is no more than a ploy by candy and card companies to up their dwindling sales in the spring.
Many people argue that the holiday was begun recently, but in fact, Valentine’s Day has it’s roots in ancient festivals of the Roman world. Valentine’s Day is so titled after St. Valentine, a Christian martyr who is rumored to have performed marriages between young Christian lovers when the Roman emperor outlawed marriage among the Christian population. Some also contend that St. Valentine’s Day was later set in mid-February by the Christian Church in order to supersede the pagan festival of Lupercalia. This fertility festival was dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, and celebrated the abundance of spring.
In the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day was held to be the start of bird’s mating season, and so became a day dedicated to romance. As early as the late 15th century, people began to send written love notes to their dear ones (it’s even rumored that kings of England hired Valentine writers to construct notes to their beloveds!).
Valentines continued to be largely handwritten and accompanied with small gifts up to the 20th century. The new millennium brought the advent of mass printing, and soon Valentine’s cards were available for purchase in stores. Today, over 1 billion Valentine’s cards are sent each year.
But Valentine’s Day isn’t always hassle free. This year, consumers will find the price of those chocolate boxes has gone up exponentially since recent seasons. The rise in chocolate prices is due to the soaring price of raw cocoa, which has seen shortages due to diseases in the trees and dry winds during the growing season. The current price for cocoa is $2,921.05 per ton, far greater than the $1,900 average in 2012.
In other ways, Valentine’s Day continues to be a hotly contested day for emotional well being (it’s also often labeled “Single’s Awareness Day” by its detractors). This year, the tech web site CNet has advised wary users on how to block Valentine’s Day from their Facebook feeds. Many cities are offering popular anti-Valentine’s Day events at restaurants and galleries.
Obviously, opinions vary about the worth of the holiday. Personally, I find Valentine’s Day exciting: a day full of love and flowers, chocolate and furry stuffed animals, dopey romantic movies and sappy love songs? Sign me up! I usually end up giving gifts to close friends, who are the real loved ones in your life while at college. And let’s be honest: the most exciting time comes the day after Valentine’s Day, when college students are free to raid the aisles of “75% OFF” candy at local stores.
This year, I will also be celebrating “Galentine’s Day,” a holiday created by character Leslie Nope on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” This holiday occurs on February 13th, and acts as a foil for the relationship-focused holiday. In Ms. Knope’s words, it’s a day “for ladies to celebrate ladies.” I’ll be celebrating by getting breakfast in the afternoon with several of my female friends.
My recommendation? Enjoy Valentine’s Day, and celebrate the love you have in your life. Whether it be friends, family, pets, teammates, castmates or classmates, it’s always a good time to remind people how much you care.