In honor of this day of romance, and obviously based on my generally high regard for the romance genre, I started doing a little thinking about Valentine’s Day and the meaning behind the cultural significance of the day. There’s a various amount of history behind the day, both involving the original romantic history we are all familiar with and also many other types of events that have happened since.
St. Valentine’s Day has been around since approximately 500 AD. The day has Catholic origins, and Saint Valentine is still considered a saint in the Catholic church to this day. He is the patron saint of lovers, epileptics and beekeepers. Supposedly, he went against the Roman emperor and married couples that were in love. He was condemned and beaten to death and beheaded (which seems like overkill to me). There are a number of theories as to why he was marrying people in secret, seemingly romance is the first thing that comes to mind, but why was it done in secret in the first place? Well, during this time period the emperor Claudius had banned marriages in Rome to try and recruit more soldiers for his numerous wars. People in love don’t want to be kept apart though and so Valentine risked his life to continue to unite people in love.
Due to the original history of the day, with it’s obviously romantic if somewhat gruesome beginnings, it started being commercialized as a romantic celebration in the 19th century. Prior to that, many authors capitalized on the romanticism of the day, including both Chaucer and Shakespeare, but it was really the production of massive amounts of Valentine’s Day cards that pushed this day into becoming what it is today. Hallmark began mass-producing Valentine’s Day cards in 1913 and today there are 190 million Valentine’s Day cards sent each year – not even including those exchanged by kids in school. In the U.S. alone, in 2017 there was a whopping $18.2 Million spent on celebrating this holiday. Some think of this day as Singles Awareness Day just because of how much of a spotlight there is on couples and romantic love. And while many are celebrating in couples, there are so many kinds of love to celebrate that the commercialized aspect of it has expanded to celebration of love within friendship and family also.
One of the more common symbols used on Valentine’s Day cards and decorations is cupid, a familiar cherub with wings and a bow and arrow. Cupid is a figure from classical mythology – he’s the son of the love goddess Venus and war god Mars. He is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection, which makes it odd to me that he is often depicted as a baby.
Fun fact too – Valentine’s Day is the most common wedding anniversary in the Philippines! There are many people who share an anniversary date, as this highly romantic holiday is so commonly picked for wedding day celebrations.
I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day this year, whether you were celebrating with a significant other, with other loved ones, or just celebrating love for your self! If anyone has any fun facts or stories about Valentine’s Day, please feel free to share!