If you ask any realist their thoughts on Valentine’s Day, you might be met with an opinion on the greeting card and candy companies being in alliance to market and sell a packaged, sticker-priced idea of love that we all willingly buy into. Although that view may be a tad cynical for those with hopes of roses and chocolates on this day of love, it isn’t exactly wrong.
Valentine’s Day wasn’t intended to be celebrated with candy-hearts and candle-lit dinners. Pope Gelasius deemed Feb. 14 as Valentine’s Day in the fifth century, and the day was not even associated with love until the Middle Ages when England and France carried the common thought that Feb. 14 was the beginning of mating season for birds.
The Catholic Church recognizes three different Valentines, or Valentinus, all of whom were murdered. One in particular is believed to have been a priest in third century Rome under the rule of Emperor Claudius II who outlawed marriage in the belief that unmarried men made better warriors. Believing this decree to be unjust, Valentine wed lovers in secret and was in turn, put to death. Romantic, right?
Another belief of the backstory of Valentine was that he was killed while trying to help Christians escape brutal imprisonment under Roman soldiers. Some suggest that, while imprisoned himself, Valentine fell in love with a visitor of his and wrote a letter before his death signed “From your Valentine.” This is now seen as one of the first Valentine’s Day greetings.
As far back as the Middle Ages, we can see efforts of heartfelt expressions of love. One of the oldest known valentines is a poem from 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. The poem was written for his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured in battle.
How did the remembrance of a martyr like Saint Valentine and epic love poems penned from a tower become misconstrued as reasoning for a national frenzy of commercial spending?
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans are expected to spend a record setting $20.7 billion in the name of love this year, percent more than last year, despite years of decrease in national participation in the holiday. Fifty-two percent of people between the ages of 25 and 34 will participate in Valentine’s Day spending, and 53 percent between the ages of 18 and 24 will take part in Valentine’s spending, according to the NRF.
An overwhelming critique to Valentine’s Day is the claim that you don’t need one day out of the year to show your love for those around you, you should be doing so all year round. This is a valid point. However, we still do it. Every. Single. Year. If we are the autonomous beings we claim to be, why is it that we commit to spending such a large sum of money every year?
It’s not just Valentine’s Day, either. This conversation arises at every holiday: Christmas overwhelmingly, but also Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and so on. Our capitalistic society takes ahold of holidays, rooted in practical and/or religious histories, and creates from them a capitalistic opportunity to increase sales. We are aware of this through editorials, written much like this one, sales reports, and everyday conversations, yet somehow, we still participate.
Considering the implication of monetary expressions of love, the moral debate arises of whether or not to partake in such a holiday. On one hand, to do so, to go out and buy flowers, chocolates and a fancy meal, is to contribute to the idea of commercialized love and affection. However, on the other hand, to stand strong in your efforts to fight against the Hallmark holiday and choose not to celebrate can gain you some social scrutiny.
It’s hard to live up to the expectations set by Valentine’s greats such as King Henry V, who hired a writer to compose a Valentine’s love letter to Catherine of Valois. And, unless you too have been captured in battle and are writing from a tower, the drama of love may not be adequately conveyed through a festive Hallmark card. So, don’t put that pressure on yourself.
Whether you will be contributing to the millions of dollars our nation will spend this year, or going for a more low-key approach to Valentine’s Day, just make sure to do so in sincerity. Don’t let capitalistic America strip you of your authentic love and money.
The Carrier’s editorial opinion represents the views of the senior members of the Campus Carrier and Viking Fusion news staff.