The dreaded month of February has finally come—the time for sappy, sugar-coated agony laced with flowers, chocolates, and cards. It’s the love month!
But has it ever occurred to you how this came to be?
Why is Valentine’s Day a celebration of love, anyway? Who is Valentine, and why is the fourteenth of February his/her day? Why do people celebrate love with flowers and chocolate—I really want to know why and how people deemed chocolate to be the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. Why not fish, or vegetables? Both are healthier than sweet confectionery. Surely, that would ensure the survival of lovers and lengthen their time together.
Well… why don’t we try to figure these out now, shall we?
The Food for the Gods
Apparently, according to thefactsite.com, chocolate is supposed to symbolize affection, attraction, deep love, luxury, passion and sensuality. It increases the desire and energy levels, and endorphins are released. Some scientists have undertaken various studies and seen that chocolate is also an aphrodisiac.
Chocolate comes from the “Theobroma cacao” tree, which means “food for the gods” in Greek. I guess that gave birth to a certain mentality—“if it’s good for the gods, it must be good for my lover, too.” In fact, chocolate factories reach an all-time high in sales and production during the month of February.
So that’s why people give chocolate on Valentine’s Day! It encourages them to be… er, “passionately, deeply affectionate and in love” with each other. Is that why so many people celebrate their birthdays on the months of October and November?
That makes so much sense, considering Valentine’s Day started out as a pagan celebration of fertility.
The Bloody Valentines
Valentine’s Day wasn’t actually known as the day of Valentine before.
It used to be known as Lupercalia—the Romans’ feast celebrated from February 13 to 15 (other sources state just February 15) dedicated to the god Lupercus, an ancient Italian divinity known as the protector of sheep and the promoter of fertility.
As stated in npr.org, Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said that young women would actually line up for the Roman romantics who “were drunk… [and] naked” to hit them with the hides of the slain sacrificial goats or dogs, believing this would make them fertile.
Maybe this is where the phrase “hit on women” originated from, huh?
Lupercalia also included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew from a jar the names of women whom they’d be paired up with for the rest of the festival.
Maybe the word romance originated from the Romans, too?
Well, Wikipedia tells me that it is! The word originally was from the Latin adverb “Romanicus,” which means “of the Roman style.”
The role of Romans in the origins of Valentine’s Day doesn’t end there.
The “Valentine” in “Valentine’s Day”
Did you know that there isn’t just one Valentine to own the fourteenth of February?
Claudius II, a Roman emperor commonly known as Claudius Gothicus, executed two men—both named Valentine—on February 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Roman Catholic Church with the celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day.
Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day in the 5th century, declaring February 14 to be Saint Valentine’s Day.
Many stories and various Valentines are associated with the ambiguous history of February 14. In fact, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of February 14.”
But one of the many was Saint Valentine of Rome. He was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. Legend says that during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before his execution.
I guess, now, we should be calling it Valentines’ Day instead of just Valentine’s, considering there isn’t just one (or two) Valentine(s).
The Love Birds
It was not until the 14th century that the Christian feast day became definitively associated with love.
This is according to infoplease.com. In fact, UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine, stated that it was Chaucer who first linked Saint Valentine’s Day with romance in 1381, as he stated in his poem in honor of the engagement of England’s Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. In “The Parliament of Fowls,” the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and Saint Valentine’s Day are linked in the lines:
For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.
You see, it was an ancient belief that birds first mate in the middle of February.
That was in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.
Not only Chaucer but also Shakespeare and his works gave emphasis to romanticizing Saint Valentine’s Day. It then gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe, eventually leading to the celebration that we know of today.
The Presents of the Present
In the past, lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines“). Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children, in order to ward off epilepsy (called “Saint Valentine’s Disease”).
At present, Valentine’s Day symbols include:
- theheart-shaped outline (which Magicians and Alchemists used for incantations pertaining to matters related to love and romance; also used in rituals with a goal to stengthen relationships; recognized across cultures as being a symbol for charity, joy and compassion),
- doves (symbols of love and peace; messengers; depicted the goddess of love, Aphrodite),
- and the figure of the wingedCupid (from the Latin Cupido, which means “desire”; child of Aphrodite; the god of desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection).
Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
In fact, according to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards sent each year are valentines.
I don’t know about now, though, since people have started thinking of cards and handwritten letters as overrated and tacky. Peopl now would rather send impersonally personal ones through social media.
Nonetheless, flowers and confectionery were a thing then as much as they are now.
Apparently, people just love what flowers symbolize, especially the red rose (varying shades of red carry different symbolic meanings; burgundy, for example, means a love that has yet to be realized). It is considered as because they represent all things sensual, sacred, pure and romantic.
The rose (especially fragrant ones, according to ancient Greek mythology), after all, was the emblem of the goddess Aphrodite’s beauty—it was said to grow from the blood of Adonis, one of her lovers. It is also a symbol of passion, desire, and physical perfection, a common symbol of eternal life and resurrection.
And as for confectioneries—well, we already know why people love sweets such as chocolate.
The Business of Love
Nowadays, it won’t be surprising to find that some people consider Valentine’s Day as overrated. Thinking it’s overrated can even be considered overrated !
On the last day of January, we hear people declaring it to be March the next day, denying the existence of the dreaded love month. Hugot has been embedded into our culture, often associated to how love is overrated.
But is it, really?
Not only chocolate and card factories benefit from Valentine’s, but also various businesses that profit from different symbols of love which couples buy for each other. I guess the abundance of flower stalls and celebratory representations of love are enough proof that Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for lovers to flaunt their feelings to the world. It is the only day of the year that allows Public Display of Affection to be tolerated by the SAD ones (those who consider it Single Awareness Day).
The True Celebration of Love
However, let us always take into consideration that the celebration of love does not always pertain to romantic love.
Love is not only for couples, but also for friends, family, and even yourself.
So who cares if you’re in a relationship or not? February must not be dreaded; take this as an opportunity to thank your loved ones, like friends and family, for always loving you no matter what.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day like you own it. By all means, buy yourself some chocolate—endorphins make you happy! Take a break from the stress of reality and treat yourself.
After all, you cannot truly love others if you have not learned how to love yourself.