As Feb. 14 fast approaches, a myriad of emotions are felt by students at the College.
For those who love fairytale romance or are involved with a significant other, Valentine’s Day can be a special time to share with one another. At the same time, it can be a stressful guessing game with hours spent in card stores, florists and Victoria’s Secret.
Meanwhile, those who are single are left with a mixed bag of feelings: bitterness at being alone, nausea and annoyance because they are surrounded by lovey-dovey couples or relief that their sparse bank accounts are spared this extra expense.
“I think it is a time when boyfriends have to impress their girlfriends, while girlfriends worry about what type of gift is appropriate,” Mike Slattery, sophomore psychology major, said. “Then, all the single people either complain that they are single or embrace their freedom from gift-giving hell.”
“I think it’s a nice idea in theory, but for a lot of people, Valentine’s Day ends up being kind of inconvenient,” Allison Hays, sophomore English and elementary education major, said.
Controversies aside, most of us are unaware that there is an actual historical significance to Valentine’s Day. So, how exactly did February 14 get to be the cultural phenomenon it is today? The answer dates back to ancient Rome.
There are numerous legends that have cropped up to account for the existence of Valentine’s Day. However, most of them identify Valentine as a priest who resided and served in Rome during the third century.
The emperor at the time, Claudius II, felt that single men would make better soldiers than those with wives and families. Therefore, he enacted a ban on marriages of young men. In protest of what he felt was an unfair law, Valentine began performing secret marriage ceremonies. When Claudius II found out about Valentine’s blatant disregard for his ruling, he sentenced Valentine to death.
Another popular tale dictates that Valentine, while imprisoned for his crime, fell in love with the jailor’s daughter. Before being put to death, it is believed that he wrote the first Valentine’s greeting: a card to his beloved which he signed “From your Valentine.”
While it may be that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to mark the anniversary of Valentine’s death, other historians contend that the Christian church instituted the observance of the holiday in order to Christianize the pagan festival known as Lupercalia.
As part of the Lupercalia festivities, the bachelors of Rome would randomly select the name of a townswoman from an urn and would then spend the duration of the year in her company.
And finally, there is Cupid, the familiar winged cherub whose likeness is pictured on countless greeting cards, chocolate boxes and cartoons at this time of year. According to mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
“I know that Cupid is a mythological figure, but other than that, I’m not familiar with the history of Valentine’s Day,” Lindsay Knight, sophomore English major, said. “It is definitely more of a Hallmark holiday than a day of historical significance. The amount of money that people spend on cards, candy and flowers can be ridiculous.”
By the beginning of the 18th century, the commercialization of the holiday had begun to take hold. It became common practice for American friends and lovers to exchange notes or small gifts as signs of their fondness for one another. At some point in the 1840s, a woman by the name of Esther A. Howland, also known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” began to sell elaborately decorated premade cards in the United States.
Today, Valentine’s Day, follows closely behind Christmas as the second largest greeting card holiday of the year. According to the American Greeting Card Association, almost one billion cards are sent out each year in our country alone.
According to an article published last February by The Arizona Daily Star, Americans spend nearly $13 billion a year on Valentine’s Day related items, with the average person spending just under $100.
When it is taken into account that Valentine’s Day is also celebrated in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and Mexico, the true scope of this holiday becomes more apparent.
So whether you love it or loathe it, one thing is for certain: Valentine’s Day is here to stay. Although questions remain as to whether the popularity of this holiday stems from the sentiment involved or the elaborate gifts received, the College will undoubtedly be cloaked in a sea of pink and red come next Monday.
Information from historychannel.com and azstarnet.com.