The cards, balloons and teddy bears are filling the shops. The adverts for champagne and spa weekends away are invading our TV screens. And, somehow, red hearts are popping up everywhere. You literally can’t fail to notice that Valentine’s Day is approaching. So, just how have we reached the point where in 2018, the UK alone is set to spend over £1,000,000,000 on Valentine’s presents for their partners?
What we know as ‘Valentines’ today most likely originated from the Roman pagan festival named ‘Lupercalia’, a ceremony which was intended to secure fertility and keep out evil. Some thousands of years later the death of St. Valentine of Terni who was martyred in 269 B.C. for the crime of marrying Christian couples added to the history surrounding the date. The marital links between his death and crimes have caused many to associate him as the patron saint of love, young people, and marriages. However, it was only once English poet Chaucer, some hundreds of years later, penned his ‘Parliament of Fouels’ that the first major links between St Valentine’s Day and romantic love occurred. He wrote ‘for this was on St. Valentine's Day/ When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate’, which is widely considered to be the beginning of the ‘courtly love’ era.
Fast forward to modern day celebrations, and it would indeed seem that the ‘holiday’ is more about looking like you’re in love, rather than actually being in it. It appears that Valentine’s Day has morphed into some twisted competition between couples, about who can claim the most Instagram likes and comments; the rich history behind the day is simply forgotten.
Sadly, it would appear that Valentine’s Day is a day dedicated to the commercialising of love. It doesn’t really matter… as long as it’s red, expensive, and “from the heart” e.g. impresses her/his Snapchat and Instagram followers) rather than a feeling. From an anthropological standpoint, it makes love appear to be a real item that can be purchased or earned, not a feeling to share with others. Shouldn’t every day not be a day to display your love and affection to the ones you hold dear? In my opinion, modern day Valentine’s is turning love into something that generates a profit, not a day to show the ones you love your appreciation for them. The flowers and teddy bears cause a non-permanent feeling of joy, yet cause big companies to be able to continue exploiting consumers for their own gain.
Some would argue that Valentine’s embodies the view that loving someone isn’t enough – you have to buy them jewellery, chocolate, roses, etc. However, it is ultimately down to how you and your partner wish to spend the day. Whether you celebrate it or not, you do what makes you both happy (although you don’t need to wait until Valentine’s to show your partner how much they mean to you – show you care all year round!).