I love Valentine’s Day. I get this warm feeling inside when I think of heart-shaped chocolates, fresh roses, and seeing couples showing their love for each other.
But like a wedding or prom, it could be an expensive day, and seems to imply big and beautiful expectations, which supersede reality. You’re supposed to find rose petals at your feet when you wake up, walk on water all day, and then spend the best date night ever with your significant other before having the most intimate encounter with them before you fall asleep. For some people, that’s exactly how the story goes. But for others, it’s not all lovey-dovey and fantastic.
I think it’s all so romantic —but it’s also very expensive.
According to an annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the National Retail Federation disclosed that the total spending in America last year for Valentine’s Day was $18.2 billion, an average of $136.57 spent by the average U.S. consumer.
In Canada, according to a study by MasterCard, the total spending for Valentine’s Day was approximately one-third of America’s.Still, that’s a lot of money for one day of the year. But, why is it just that one day? Some critics say that Valentine’s Day is a social construct that markets love and profits from the romantic ideologies and associations it carries.
Why is that relevant? I shouldn’t care about what a few nay-sayers think. But the truth is, Valentine’s Day wasn’t always so cheerful and heartwarming. In fact, it has bloody origins that many people aren’t aware of.
The earliest histories can be traced to ancient Rome when the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia (festival of purification and fertility) from Feb. 13 to Feb. 15. During this celebration, men would whip women with goat and dog hides to make them fertile and young men drew the names of women from a clay jar to be paired together during (and sometimes after) the festival. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you early romance.
In AD 300 Emperor Claudius II killed two martyrs by the same name on Feb. 14: Saint Valentine. One execution resulted from Saint Valentine ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire, and the other resulted from Saint Valentine secretly performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry under the emperor’s reign. The Catholic Church honoured these martyrs every year after on the same day.
It wasn’t until the 14th and 16th centuries when Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare romanticized the day in their works. By the 18th century, Valentine’s Day evolved from a bloody remembrance of martyrdom to an occasion for lovers.
From sour to sweet, we now get back to the commercialization of the day we circle on our calendars every year. Some can argue that it’s cheesy, but I’d like to say that it’s a sweet gesture.