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Valentine’s Day Exposed

Updated on December 13, 2015

Victorian Valentine


Valentine's Day is Just Around the Corner...

But what if you don’t have a date? What if you’re not in love (or even “in like”) with anyone? Do you spend the evening alone at home (with a pet, if you're lucky) and a tub of gelato? Let’s not forget about the following day when everyone around you is boasting about their incredibly romantic dinners, the fabulous gifts they've received, and all those sappy love cards- how do you cope?

As someone who is passionate about history, I like to examine the origins of just about everything. Some historians believe Valentine’s Day to be the “Christian replacement” for the ancient pagan celebration of Lupercalia. According to Plutarch, in order to purify the city and induce fertility in married women, noble youths and magistrates ran through the city naked, laughing, and whacking people with goatskins. Sounds like of fun, right? Of course, the Catholic Church banned this unusual yet highly spirited tradition.

While the Vatican recognizes three saints by the name of "Valentine"(or Valentinus), nobody knows for sure which one is being honored on Valentine’s Day. What we do know is that all three of them were violently martyred. So, how does murder become the basis for this Catholic holiday? The most popular legend: St. Valentine fell in love with a jailer's daughter while in prison. Prior to his execution he sent the young woman a love letter signed "from your Valentine.”

By now, most of us are fully aware that Valentine’s Day is little more than an excuse for businesses to generate sales between Christmas and Easter. Greeting card companies were quick to capitalize on this opportunity with an ingenious marketing strategy- the obligatory Valentine’s Day card. Candy stores, florists, restaurants, perfume companies, and lingerie shops were quick to jump on the proverbial- yet profitable- bandwagon.

Knowing the bizarre, bloody history of this holiday and the commercial reason for its existence should be enough to make you feel better about not having a date on the special “Night of Love.” That doesn’t mean you have to stay home, however. Be proactive and contact your other sarcastic/intelligent/non-conformist friends. Meet up at the movies, have dinner as a group or go dancing. What if everyone you know has a date and you’re flying solo? No problem. Grab a beer during happy hour by yourself (don’t be shy and chat with others), sign up for a food tour or a wine-tasting, visit a museum.

If you strive to live a life dedicated to learning new things, traveling, and experiencing different cultures, you will seldom- if ever- feel the need to follow the masses. Maintaining an independent mindset will prevent you from succumbing to banal social pressures. Finally (and most importantly) the best way to cope with Valentine’s Day is to score plenty of discount-priced chocolate the next day!

As always, thank you for reading.

C. De Melo
Author & Artist


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