DATE: 2/13/2004 12:05:00 PM
Well, if it isn't another holiday to bah-humbug.
This one's an easy one. So easy, in fact, that I haven't bothered to do it before. But I thought you all might like to have an informed view, this time around, of the spending frenzy to which we're all being invited for another year.
The History Channel's piece on the history of this holiday reveals that it's pretty much your standard prudish Catholic revision of a pagan / Roman festival revolving around something dirty. In this case, it was the Roman holiday of Lupercalia, which celebrated February as the beginning of spring. According to the History Channel,
The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year.
MMMMM-MM! Enjoy your Hershey's kisses, folks!
Luckily for women who aren't quite so amenable to being slapped with bloody rawhide, the Catholic Church soon stepped in and dedicated the day instead to St. Valentine, who may or may not have been a priest who may or may not have performed marriages against the decree of a despotic Roman Emperor, and who may or may not have been imprisoned for it, where he may or may not have fallen in love with the daughter of his jailer, who may or may not have been blind.
So in other words, Valentine's Day started as that blood-whipping thing and evolved into a typically morbid celebration of martrydom. We think.
The oldest known Valentine, again according to THC:
...was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
And we all know how that turned out.
The advent of the postal service and mass-produced product during the Industrial Revolution, as with seemingly all other aspects of daily living, made an otherwise forgettable thing of murky origins and dubious importance into one of great significance. Combine easily accessible postage with the ludicrously stuffy social mores of the Victorian Era, and passive-agressive behavior such as sending Valentine's Cards almost makes sense. Add to that the fact that confectionaries such as chocolates and candy hearts had to be hand-made, rather than picked up at the local drugstore, and the practices of Valentine's Day are almost romantic.
Still, if Valentines' Day had started shakily, despite its brief moment in the sun during a time when people dressed table legs, it has since taken a dive for the ludicrous.
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. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia...
...none of which need to a) create any more paper waste, which is all the sending of billions of greeting cards really accomplishes, or b) eat more chocolate.
But still, like the lowing herds of cattle we are (and are increasingly coming to physically resemble), we troop down to the Hallmark and--well, the women among us do, anyway, if you'll refer to the statistic quoted above--buy, buy, buy.
And so the captains of industry have once again manipulated the deepest and most sacred emotions of a population to hawk totally useless products.
Now, why would I say all this when I have a wonderful, loving boyfriend that's sure to bring me roses on V-Day? What do I have to complain about?
First of all, I'm not the kind of girl who likes to make snotty comparisons between herself and other women. I don't walk around on my high frickin horse like some of you ladies out there because I Have Someone. It's not a badge of honor to me. It doesn't validate me as a person that I have a Valentine. It certainly doesn't make me better than anyone else. Anyone who feels differently, in my mind, is just pathetic.
That said, I've been going out with Steve for just 4 of my 23 years. The other 19 were long, dark, bleak, Valentine-less years in which most of my Valentine's Day gifts came from my parents. I have not forgotten them, and I still feel the pain of those made to feel like losers because they don't have someone to exchange fatty pleasantries with on this most random of holidays.
Because if you have a significant other, every day is Valentine's Day. Seriously. I could buy Steve chocolate whenever I want. He could bring me flowers anytime. And he does. And you know what? It's a lot more special when it's not because Hallmark is breathing down our respective necks.
Meanwhile, if you don't have a significant other, Valentine's Day is the worst--worst--day of the year. There is no rhyme or reason to it--the powers that be have suddenly seen fit to make you feel like a worthless loser because no one sent you a Vermont Teddy Bear at work. Has there ever been so much unnecessary angst crammed into one day?
No, I don't like Valentine's Day. It only makes the majority of people feel bad and the minority feel guilty. And it makes all of us fat.