Cupid, also called Amor, is the god of desire in Roman mythology. He fired golden arrows at people to make them fall in love, and lead arrows to make people fall out of love. Cupid’s quiver must be becoming increasingly balanced with both types of projectiles because I have noticed that many people seem to have developed a love-hate relationship with the upcoming red holiday, Valentine’s Day.
What makes people part of the whole counter-culture of Anti-Valentine’s Day participants? Are these non-observers boycotting the sentimentality? Or the pressure that the commercialism of the holiday presents to produce- well, presents?
While I personally embrace the holiday and the chance it offers to acknowledge our feelings, I do wonder why a carefully crafted paper doily heart just doesn’t ‘cut’ it anymore in the face of walls of red gifts everywhere? I think it should but maybe that’s because I’m lucky enough to have my house and life filled with love. Where did the tradition of honouring love and giving cards and gifts on February 14th begin, anyway?
It turns out there were a few Christian martyrs called Valentine – who knew? My favourite story features a third-century priest named Valentine who was executed on February 14th, circa the year 270, because he persisted in performing marriage ceremonies despite a ban by the Roman emperor (Claudius II, persuaded that single men made better soldiers for his army, prohibited marriage.) Thrown into jail, Valentine established a relationship with his jailor’s daughter (some versions even recount that he cured her blindness) and his letters to her were signed “From your Valentine”- now that’s a phrase we’ve all penned a time or two since marketing took a hold of the romantic day.
There are also historical accounts of an ancient pagan custom that took place in preparation for the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which started February 15. The names of the town’s maidens would be collected and then drawn at random by the local bachelors; in this fashion couples were paired off for the year. (Or, perhaps one might surmise that this is quite possibly the historical inspiration for our modern search for romance via internet matchmaking sites!) And then, to further obscure the origins of the holiday, medieval Europeans thought February 14 was the date on which the birds started to mate. No word on the bees.
Although the beginnings of Valentine’s Day are decidedly unclear, the popularity and growing commercialism of the holiday is certain. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. The most popular gifts, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, are (in descending order):
- gift cards
- other gifts
Many of you may follow the trend and turn to your favourite local chocolatier for delectable sweets for your sweet, make reservations for a romantic dinner, or trust Hallmark to find some perfectly chosen verses to express your romantic sentiments. And rarely is it ever a bad time for something pretty and shiny no matter where it falls on the list.
Verdict: Almost 62% of consumers still celebrate Valentine’s Day. But stats suggest that maybe they are ‘buying’ into it whether they like it or not: 53% of women say they would end their relationship if they received nothing. (Ouch! Who did they poll? I know many a mommy who have had temper tantrums over sucky Valentine’s or Mother’s Day holidays where they felt under appreciated but no one I know has walked out yet!)
It’s true that the members of our mADD family are still (Valentine) card carrying supporters of Team Red. Read here how we celebrate Valentine’s Day with Kids. (link to follow upon publishing)
How do you celebrate? Do you feel pressured into the consumerism of the holiday?