Whenever I talk to people about Valentine’s Day, I get some sort of hateful response. It’s only about money. You’re forced to buy something for your significant other or they’ll be mad. It’s more romantic to show your love every day in small gestures rather than doing so only one day a year. And it’s all just a devious plan of the industry, trying to sell heart-shaped food, flowers, and other festive nonsense.
Is that the truth or can Valentine’s Day be something more? As a fan of spreading love and appreciation, I want to investigate this further. What are the roots of Valentine’s Day? And how can we escape all this negativity and make it an enjoyable day?
The origin of Valentine’s Day lies in ancient Rome around 250 A.D. when a Christian priest named Valentine married soldiers, a practice forbidden in the Roman army. He was beheaded on February 14, 269 A.D., as Christianity was still prohibited. But Valentine of Rome became a martyr and patron saint of lovers.
During the Middle Ages, people would write each other poems and confess their love for each other on Valentine’s Day. This is a practice I would like to go back to as it’s what Valentine’s Day is about for me: Appreciation for your loved ones. But be it laziness, disinterest, or the lack of creativity, these handmade love letters started to vanish at the end of the 18th century. Instead, you could now copy poems from books and buy Valentine’s Day cards. When stamps were invented in 1840, sending mail became much cheaper, and many pre-produced cards were sent out. This was the beginning of the commercialization of Valentine’s Day, and in the 19th century, British settlers brought Valentine’s Day to the U.S. and other countries.
Over time, companies discovered they could make tons of money with this one special day. In 1868, Cadbury started selling chocolate in heart-shaped boxes – the beginning of the enormous assortment of Valentine’s Day products we know today.
Unfortunately, there’s also pressure when it comes to modern Valentine’s Day celebrations. You’re expected to spend a lot of money to create the perfect day. You’ll need flowers, candles, chocolate, and even dinner reservations. Although I very much like the idea of dedicating a day to a loved person, like a second birthday, purchased items are not necessarily the best opportunity to show your love. Of course, it’s easy to walk to the next store, grab some flowers, give them to your wife, and be done for the next 12 months. But how sad is that! Instead, why not give something handcrafted that comes from the heart? If you’re not poetically inclined – no problem. You can write a love letter listing the things you love about your partner – sometimes, it can be that easy. It’s the gesture that counts. Or maybe you just want to slow down for a day and spend some quality time together. Remember: Valentine’s Day is about love, not buying stuff.
Valentine’s Day also happens to put people who are single under a lot of pressure. They feel left out since this day seems to be a celebration of romantic love only. But what’s wrong with giving gifts – handmade or bought – to your relatives? Your parents, your siblings, your favorite aunt? That’s how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Japan.
If Valentine’s Day bothers you, you might celebrate Library Lovers Day, which also happens to be commemorated on February 14. You can go to the library, get a nice book or film and spend the evening with yourself or friends and family.
And if you’d like to get into a ‘love-yourself-mode’, listen to this song:
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