Oh, Valentine’s Day. A day where most couples celebrate their love by purchasing gifts of roses, chocolate, and larger-than-life teddy bears. Kinda touching, to be frank. A day where courtship and friendship are the main attraction. Also, every economist shrieks at anyone stupid enough to buy flowers on that day. So, let’s look back at the Holiday of Love and see how it all came into place.
To fully understand the history of this holiday, we must first take a step back about 1,700 years into the past. It’s the beginning of the decline for the Roman Empire, and a small movement of religious ideals is growing ever larger. This movement is Christianity, and the Romans are not fond of it; so much so that they brutally murder any believers with clubs, stones, or at the hands of criminals and slaves for the amusement of the patrician. One such Christian was Valentine of Terni, a priest of the infant religion. Legend says that when he was under house arrest, the judge who observed this imprisonment gave Valentine a test; heal his daughter’s blindness and he would do his bidding. Without breaking a sweat, Valentine heals her vision. In awe, the judge falls to his knees, asking for mercy. Valentine only asks him to free his fellow Christians jailed by him. The judge quickly complied. Later in his life, he was arrested again and sent to the Emperor himself. The Emperor would let him live if he renounced his faith. Valentine did not, and he was killed. Seeing him as a martyr, the Church made February 14th his feast day.
Pretty nice story, but you’re probably wondering: where did the whole ‘Lovey-Dovey’ attitude of Valentine’s Day come from? Your guess is as good as the rest of the world: there is no confirmed source for love in Valentine’s Day. There are several theories, ranging from pagan seasonal celebrations to fictional stories of romance told on that day. These have been debunked over the centuries that they have existed. The most widely accepted theory is from a poem used to commemorate the marriage between the English King Richard II and Queen Anne of Bohemia.
“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, where every fowl cometh to choose his mate.”
Valentine’s Day has been celebrated in the United States for centuries, but its true rise to popularity came in the 1850’s when Esther A. Howland began to mass produce a very famous tradition of Valentine’s Day: Valentine Cards. These things are so popular that nearly 25% of all the cards sent throughout the year are valentines. Many countries around the world hold their own traditions; from pairing off with people in neighboring houses in France to carving melons in China to pinning your crush’s name to your shirtsleeve in South Africa.
I’ll end with just a little advice for those who buy flowers on V-Day: DON’T! Florists will bump up the prices of roses up to $30 in some areas. If you want to save some money, get flowers 2 to 3 days before the big day and keep them in a vase filled with water. You can thank me later.