Valentine’s day is upon us! Caught in the whirlwind of romantic preparations, you may be too busy to wonder how we came to celebrate love on this particular day, and who was Valentine anyway?
The origins of Valentine’s Day go back to the Romans when Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. The Catholic Church was quick to mark their martyrdom with a love fest, thus creating a day of torture for the 45% of the world who are single.
I find this particular day to be quite controversial. After all, it is the one day of the year that in celebrating “coupleness” it unwittingly penalizes “singleness.” It is an entire day where couples give each other presents, chocolates, and flowers. Restaurants are booked solid with loving couples and every supermarket greets its shoppers with an avalanche of hearts and pink accessories. The press is full of stories on how to spend the day for couples, but also how to spend the day if you are an “unlucky” singleton.
For many women, the holiday stigmatizes them and their “failure” as females to have a partner who will give them red roses and take them to dinner. Even girls are young as 10, learn what it means to be desired by the amount of V-day cards that they receive at school. Those who don’t get any, start their self-limiting journey to feeling unloved and unwanted.
How does a little girl who did not get any cards feel? She may feel fat, ugly, pimply, boring, undeserving, unloved. These are the kinds of beliefs that will follow her for life. Even if she becomes a skinny supermodel revered by millions, in her, she will still carry this ten-year-old who was ignored on Valentine’s day. You see, it is one thing for a little girl (or even a big girl) to suspect that she is not particularly popular. It is entirely another thing to have a “ceremony,” confirming her suspicions. Because Valentine’s day is exactly that! A ceremony, confirming the success and popularity of the loved and, at the same time, a day for couples to rub their love in the face of singles!
It is everywhere and all-encompassing. No environment offers protection or respite from the relentless messages for the “loved” and from the “loved.” From the office to the classroom, the red and pink heart assault is in full swing from the minute the Christmas trees are down to the holiday culmination on Feb. 14.
And for those of you who are smugly holding on to your partners and have your dinner reservations, all confirmed you are not exactly safe. An increasing number of couples are using the holiday to evaluate their love lives, and instead of making up or making out, many are breaking up and moving out. A 2019 survey by YouGov Omnibus showed that 7% of Americans have ended a relationship on Valentine’s Day, with 18–34-years olds (12%) being the most likely age group to have done so. Men (8%) and women (6%) are almost equally likely to have ended a relationship on Valentine’s Day.
And there is more, Valentine’s day is smack in the middle of breakup season. It must be that the proliferation of candlelight and messages of eternal love reminds some people that the unsatisfactory relationship that they are in must end.
Valentine’s day celebrations are here to stay, as long as the good folks at Hallmark have anything to do about it. But for those of you who are looking for an alternative way to celebrate the day, I can direct you to the Roman feast of Lupercalia. From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans sacrificed a goat and a dog and then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. The women would actually line up to be hit because they believed it made them fertile. There was also a matchmaking lottery! Men picked names from a jar, and they would spend the 3-day feast with the woman whose name they drew. What a splendid way for the single crowd to pass a few days in February, especially if we dispense with the sacrifices and the beatings.
As for me, I decided to spend that day in the pressurised cabin of an airplane protected from the hot air from this ridiculous holiday.