By Lilly Gelman
January 1st 🎇may have marked the end of the official holiday season, but, less than two months after the gift giving has ceased, as we continue to suffer through these frigid weeks passing rotting Christmas trees🌲 while stumbling through the icy city, a red, rosy, chocolatey light at the end of tunnel appears.🌹
Two weeks into February marks the day when America, along with many other cultures across the globe, finds itself swimming in a sea of cutesy cards, red and pink wrapped chocolate🍫, heart shaped balloons❣️, and bouquets upon bouquets of roses. While not officially designated a public holiday, for many, Valentine’s Day symbolizes the celebration of romance, relationships and love, serving as a wondrous excuse to treat your significant other to an extravagant dinner, meaningful gifts, and some very special…well…you know.
On the other hand, Valentine’s Day may bring more heartbreak💔 than happiness to those lacking in the partner department. It seems hard to deny, however, the giddiness of buying half priced Valentine’s Day themed candy from your local drug store on February 15th; by then, everyone wins.
All of the stuff associated with this holiday makes one question its true purpose and beginning. Other commercialized holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, have retained some hints to their origin, with the plentiful amounts of pilgrim costumes and nativity scenes seen around the winter months. With regards to Valentine’s Day, however, all we seem to have are chocolate and teddy bears. So I must ask, is Valentine’s Day a Hallmark Holiday?
In one of the all-time funniest episodes of Happy Endings, a pre-maturely canceled modern-day “Friends” type show following the lives and ludicrous adventures of a six pack of friends, Alex Kerkovich, the Rachel equivalent of the group, tells the story of “Valentinius Valentine…a 9th-century Prussian martyr who, after being ordained at Saint Stanislaus church in Schleswig-Holstein, roamed the Black Forest in search of his long-lost love, Arbenus Sibonchka. [The Romans] ripped him tip to taint, but if you really believe in him, he will help you find love” (Season 2, Episode 13).
Oftentimes portrayed as notoriously stupid, Alex, in this case, happens to be correct. The Hallmark people did not simply create Valentine’s Day to make millions off of cards and candy. Valentine’s Day celebrations originated as a commemoration of several Christian martyrs persecuted under the Roman empire in the early 3rd century — the most famous of which, Valentinius Valentine, risked his life to officiate the weddings of soldiers who were not permitted to marry, showing his commitment to the love and relationships of others.
The reasoning behind choosing February 14th remains murky to many historians, however, the day’s official connection to romance began in 18th century England with the rise in popularity of courtly love — the kind of love that makes knights duel for the affection of a princess locked in her palace tower. Since then, it has flourished into the flushed gift-giving holiday we all know and many of us love.
While Hallmark may not have invented Valentine’s Day, they have certainly changed its trajectory. In the 18th century, lovers would commemorate the day with in-person professions of love or hand written notes explaining the depths of one’s emotions. Today, it seems that Hallmark does control most of the giving, with their sale of close to 114 million Valentine’s Day cards each year. The company began creating Valentine’s Day cards in 1913, and the trend of purchasing such items for Valentine’s Day has only gone uphill. Today, it is estimated that the average individual spends approximately $136 on Valentine’s Day. It may seem to some that Hallmark’s success has detracted from the personal nature of the holiday’s customs, however, the proliferation of romantic gifts serve as a great help to many people who may find trouble expressing their truest and deepest feelings.
Valentine’s Day’s focus on romance and love serves as a reminder for all of us of the people we value in this world. So whether you and your significant other have special plans for the evening, or you want to celebrate your singledom with a friends’ night out, take advantage of the holiday for its historic romantic origins, no matter how commercialized it may be.