Valentines Day evokes images of chocolates, red roses, and teddy bears carrying a heart in their fluffy arms, all a gift from one to the person they admire or wish to spend this holiday with. Over the years, the 14th of February, synonymous with Valentine’s Day (or V-Day) was a mass-commercialized day for lovers to declare their relationship to the world. In effect, there was a certain special pressure put onto this day where those who were without a significant other, felt shunned by the sheer amount of roses and chocolates overflowing school hallways but I digress. Despite the fluffy, romantic tinge to this holiday, the origins of it was far from anything but.
Origins of Valentine’s Day
The history of this significant day has its roots in Pagan and Roman culture with influences from its Christian contenders. The legitimization of St. Valentine’s existence remains murky to this day. There were many various interpretations of this elusive saint’s life. The Catholic church recognizes three saints named Valentine (or Valentinus) who were martyred. The similar vein of narrative is that St. Valentine became associated with the month of love due to his acts of defiance. There are legends which tell of his bravery to wed young soldiers despite a decree put forth by Emperor Claudius the II. Some say that he was a savior of prisoners who were tortured and beaten in Roman prisons. Others claim that he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and signed her a letter with the words ‘From your Valentine.’ Whichever interpretation holds true, St. Valentine remains a figure of sacrifice, bravery and heroism.
February the 14th was also a significant day for the Roman celebration of Lupercalia. The festival was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of Agriculture, as well as to Romulus and Remus, the two founders of Rome. The festival was conducted by Luperci, or a Roman order of priests, where a dog and goat was sacrificed; the goat hides striped and dipped in dog’s blood for purification. The priests would then take to the streets, gently slapping women and crop fields with the blood soaked goat hide to welcome fertility to both the land and their women. Later, the young women would put their names in an urn for the city’s bachelors to choose for pairing, and the union often resulted in marriage.
During the end of the 5th century and with the rise of Christianity, Pope Gelasius declared February the 14th to be Valentines Day, possibly with the intent to displace the Roman tradition of Lupercalia. It was deemed ‘un-Christian-like’ and therefore, replaced with the day we now know as Valentines Day.
What is Valentines Day Now?
We’re all familiar with the similar thread of Valentines Day. It’s a day of remembrance towards loving others, and a day where we can express our love and affection through gifts or words. But, should it be revered? There is a certain perceived notion of those who do not celebrate this day as being skeptical, bitter and lonely. Sometimes all three. Originally, Valentines Day was conceived as a day to remember our loved ones and show them how much we appreciate them. However, it has become a commercialized holiday, generating revenue and scandal at the same time. Many corporations such as restaurants use this day to provide packages and deals for couples who want to celebrate their union, thus leaving out those who are single to come up with their own day: Singles Day.
This day sounds exactly as it is. It is a day conceptualized with self-deprecating remarks on how ‘single af’ these people are. Normally used to generate various memes, it serves as an antithesis to all things considered Valentines. However, there have been thoughts that Valentines Day serves as a day to encourage premarital sex and ‘sin’ among young couples. This is a delicate situation in which religious beliefs merge with secular perception to birth a stigma against this day.
While to a certain extent, many would agree that hotels and restaurants take advantage of their specialty in the sector to provide for these consumers, the resulting perception would be that it is merely a commercialized holiday that depends on a person’s judgement or decision to celebrate it. If one is comfortable enough, by all instances please do celebrate if the means and reasons align. If one is uncomfortable, it is not a forced action to partake in. However, by condemning those with no religious alignments and molding Valentines Day into a preferred demonic shape to shame those that want to celebrate it, should be an action that is deterred. After all, it is a constitutional right to believe in the presence of a higher being, and to some people, Valentine’s Day is a sacred day to celebrate the saint’s presence in their life and the blessings that he has given to their family.
See, it isn’t all just silk and sin. Or expensive chocolates and wine.
There is nothing wrong in celebrating Valentine’s Day if it means something special, and could even be a good day to remind oneself about the intricacies and marvels of love. Love can also be celebrated in different forms: call your parents, spend time with friends, create memories with loved ones beyond the standard significant other and you. Love is not just confined to the eros, but partakes in philia (friendship), storge (familiar love) and philautia (self love) to name a few.
However, it should be reminded that love is not confined to a single day and we should actively strive to celebrate it every single day. Humans are fickle beings and could use a reminder that we need to let the people around us know how much we appreciate them, and what better way than the day of love itself?
To those who celebrate, Happy Valentine’s Day! To those that don’t, have a great Wednesday!
Written by Tennielle Callista Chua
Featured image from BBC
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of IGNITE.