The past and present of Valentine’s Day
By Rosemary De Souza, Features Editor
The celebration of hearts has been marked on our calendars since the end of the fifth century. But, how and why have we come to celebrate a day that brings two people closer together?
Legend has it…
The history of Valentine’s Day still remains a mystery. According to the History website, legend has it that Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men in Rome because he believed that single men are better soldiers. Valentine was a priest at that time who secretly married young couples. He was then martyred when discovered.
Another legend, however, says that Valentine was in prison when he sent the first “valentine” greeting to a young girl, who was suspected to be a jailor’s daughter. He signed the letter “From your Valentine,” the very words we still use today during this time of year.
Why February 14th?
But why has the event fallen in the middle of the second month of the year? Many believe it’s to commemorate the death anniversary of Saint Valentine, but others say that it was a way to “Christianize” a pagan holiday that happens on the 15th of February. Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god Faunus, where women would participate to increase their chances of conceiving.
But by the end of the fifth century, Lupercalia was outlawed as the festival was deemed “un-Christian” and Valentine’s Day was declared to be officially celebrated on Feb. 14. But don’t think of this day as the day of love just yet. In the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day was associated with birds’ mating season, but this apparently added to the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day of romance.
As time passed, Valentine’s Day started to evolve. It became increasingly common for friends and lovers to exchange greetings, gifts and other acts of appreciation. Slowly, handwritten messages transformed into designer greeting cards, cards were accompanied with chocolates and then roses to seal the deal.
In 2015, Statistics Canada reported that the average annual spending on Valentine’s Day for food by a Canadian household was $2,502. Some retailers in Canada, on the other hand, experienced anywhere between $800 million to $6.7 billion in customer gifting purchases.
But the growth in consumer purchases was not the only difference between then and now. The day that once marked the celebration of the union of man and woman has become the day when love is celebrated, period. Statistics Canada reports that same-sex married couples nearly tripled between 2006 and 2011, when 64,575 same-sex couple families were identified across Canada.
Adding to that progress is the appreciation of one’s self, when the day of hearts was not only seen to be significant for two people but for any individual. Self-love and care has also reached the heart of this celebration, as singles, gal pals and best buds would go out, have some fun and relax amidst busy work schedules, semesters and all the bad days that came and will come.
In the end, what started as a Christian celebration turned into a day where love can be celebrated for what it is — unconditional.