Valentine’s Day: the holiday hated by single people everywhere. Everyone has heard of it but few people know how one of the more controversial holidays came to be. This article explores how Valentine’s Day came to be and gives advice on how you can celebrate it during a pandemic.
The Birth of Valentine’s Day (Metaphorically)
Just like most events that happened a long time ago, there are multiple answers for how Valentine’s Day became a holiday. A popular story is that it was created to honor the death of St. Valentine, but it’s not that simple. First off, there are three St. Valentine’s. The first was a priest who continued to perform marriages after they were outlawed by Emperor Claudius II in Ancient Rome. Claudius saw that unmarried men were more dedicated soldiers, so he made marriage illegal for young men. When the first Valentine continued to marry lovers in secret, the emperor had him killed. Not much was known about the second Valentine, just that he was also executed by Emperor Claudius II (I think he had a problem with people named Valentine). The third Valentine was killed for freeing Christians from harsh Roman prisons and was the one to break the trend of being killed by Emperor Claudius II.
Now, we know how Valentine’s Day got its name, but why is it on February 14th?
Valentine’s Day was made to be in February around 270 B.C.E. because there was a pagan holiday in mid-February that also celebrated love and fertility. The festival was called Lupercalia. It was a celebration of the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, and was all about fertility. Matches made on this day often ended in marriage and women took part in a ceremony to make them more fertile. Lupercalia is why Valentine’s Day is all about love, but February 14th did not become associated with the day until Lupercalia was outlawed and the 14th was officially named St. Valentine’s Day in the 5th century.
Tradition (You read that like the Fiddler on the Roof didn’t you)
Over the years, Valentine’s Day has acquired many traditions. My personal favorite is exchanging Valentine’s cards with your partner or friends. Going back to Ancient Rome for a second, the first Valentine card was likely written by a young man to his lover before he was executed. The reason they were associated with Valentine’s Day? The card was signed “From your Valentine” because of course this young man was also named Valentine. In America, small, hand-made cards and tokens of affection were first exchanged in the 1700s. Cards began to be mass-produced in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland, which earned her the nickname of “Mother of the Valentine.” Valentine’s cards have only grown in popularity since then. Around 145 million cards are sent each year (“History of Valentine’s Day” by History.com editors). Of course, traditions vary around the world, and some countries have some rather interesting ways of celebrating the holiday.
In the United Kingdom, there is a tradition of sending cards unsigned. The Victorians thought it was bad luck to sign your name on a Valentine that is sent to someone you want to date, so cards have remained unsigned since. Giving red roses on Valentine’s Day also started in the UK. Many have come to see them as cheesy, but the tradition has expanded to other countries and remains a popular gift. In Japan and South Korea, Valentine’s Day is the day for women to make the move. They give gifts to men, typically a partner or best friend, and a month later on March 14th men return the favor. South Korea has a third holiday on April 14th where single friends come together to celebrate their single status and eat noodles (my kind of holiday). In Finland and Estonia, it is common for people to get engaged on Valentine’s Day, and Estonia also has an activity for single people, riding the Single Bus in the hopes of finding a partner (“6 Valentine’s Day Traditions Around the World” by WorldStrides).
How to Celebrate During a Pandemic (Stay safe y’all)
As the world experiences a pandemic, it can be hard to show your loved ones you appreciate them. Unlike most years, you can’t go out for dinner or to a movie theater for date night, and meeting up in large groups to complain about being single is out of the question. So in light of the restrictions, many countries are experiencing, I have compiled a list of things you can do to show friends, family, and partners that you love them without having to go out in.
1.Make them a card.
I know this may seem cheesy, but a lot of people appreciate something hand-made. Making something yourself shows that you are willing to put in the effort for whoever you are making it for. You can use paper and pens that you have around your house and if you have a stache of stickers and glitter now is the time to pull them out. Write about how important the receiver of the card is to you and include a funny drawing or a heartfelt poem and you’re set. It’s easy to drop the card off at a mailbox or give it to someone you live with.
2. Order flowers.
Lots of people think flowers are cheesy, but they can be the perfect gift. You can order the typical red roses or the favorite flowers of whoever you’re sending them to. Flowers all have meanings so it’s easy to compile a bouquet that has a secret message. A red rose means romance and passion, an orchid can represent luxury but also love and beauty. Some flower inspiration can be seen at the end of the article. Ordering flowers for your loved ones is guaranteed to make their day.
3.Cook for them.
Much like the cards, putting effort into making a meal at home shows that you care for the person you are cooking for. This one is easier to do for someone you are living with, but some businesses do delivery services that you could utilize. If you don’t live with the person you wish to cook for, try seeing if their favorite restaurant will deliver to them.
What to expect this year
Valentine’s Day may look different than previous years, but it is still a good time to show your loved ones you care. Continuing a tradition that has carried on for centuries, give friends and family a lovely card or a stunning bouquet will most definitely put a positive light on these dark times. And to all the single people out there, get yourself some noodles on April 14th.
I hope everyone has a lovely Valentine’s Day, regardless of their relationship status,
Photo credit: Zara
For decades, media companies have been altering photos to get rid of every blemish and imperfection, and stretch marks are usually the first to go. Stretch marks are often seen as negative; society thinks that if you have stretch marks you are no longer beautiful. This is not true. Stretch marks are a natural part of the human body. They can appear on every body type, on any gender, so why should stretch marks be airbrushed away in the media?
Everyone knows what a stretch mark looks like but few people know what they are. They occur when a person’s skin is stretched quickly by an increase in weight or height, oftentimes during puberty or pregnancy. When we grow or gain weight slowly our skin has time to stretch with us, but if someone goes through a growth sprout, as teenagers are known to do, their skin cannot handle the sudden stretch. When skin is pulled too tight or too quick its production of collagen is interrupted. Collagen is important in maintaining the structural integrity of much of our body, including our skin. Disruption of collagen leaves a mark, which is what a stretch mark is (Hyde, June 2014, 2). A new stretch mark is normally red or purple but it fades to match a person’s skin color with time. Stretch marks are a normal part of being human, so why have they come to be seen as a horrible mark? The answer is shockingly simple: perfection.
Our world has had an obsession with perfection for decades. This obsession has led to people trying to make themselves appear flawless, often going to the extremes to do so. From acne to weight, stretch marks are the latest victims of the quest for perfection. Magazines and influencers heavily edit their photos so that every freckle, every acne scar, and every stretch mark is gone. Their audience sees the edits and thinks these marks are bad because they have been removed. The media rarely thinks about what effect their actions will have on their viewers. There has been an increase in the amount of “remedies” to stretch marks and people will try anything to get rid of them. I’ve seen people use aloe vera, vitamin A oils, and even granulated sugar. Instead of trying to get rid of stretch marks, we should be trying to change societal perceptions of them.
Ever since photo editing became big in magazines and the media, stretch marks have been removed from images. Even in 2020 most companies retouch their models and get rid of any blemishes. However, some big names have made the commitment to stop digitally editing their photos. ASOS, Missguided, and Boohoo are all brands that have stopped removing stretch marks, and model Ashley Graham has been an active proponent of keeping stretch marks in media. When I was doing my research I was surprised that more companies have not done the same. I thought our society had progressed beyond the need to make everything perfect, but clearly, I was wrong. Maybe someday soon we will see more stretch marks, more so-called blemishes shown and openly accepted.
For as long as I can remember I have had stretch marks. I thought they were normal, beautiful even. I called them my scales because they were a pretty shade of purple and I was going through a mermaid phase at the time. One day I went to school in a shirt that had my upper arms, where my stretch marks were, exposed. Some kid asked why I would have “those ugly marks” on display. I went home crying. Since then I have been self-conscious about my stretch marks, which have now appeared on my hips and stomach as well as my arms. Over the years I have grown to love them again. I have taken to drawing on them, making them vines that sprout flowers, or sometimes I paint them gold. I treat them like the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which is the practice of fixing broken pottery with gold. This art highlights the flaws and shows that having an imperfection doesn’t make something ugly, but even more beautiful.
It is hard to unlearn what we have been taught by society. We grow up with toxic ideals surrounding us and removing those ideals from our brains can be next to impossible. Standing in front of a mirror and saying “you are beautiful” is usually not enough to make you believe it. It takes baby steps to accept yourself. Start off by finding positive influences: people who do not edit their pictures and show their natural self. Surrounding yourself with people who think stretch marks are beautiful shows you that there are people out there who have grown beyond what they have been taught. That it is possible to love yourself for who you are. Seeing that it is possible often makes a goal seem more tangible. Another step you can take may be a bit outside of most people’s comfort zones. Start wearing clothes or doing things that do not hide what you think are flaws but highlight them instead. Wear tank tops if you have stretch marks on your arms or a shirt that shows a little bit of your stomach if you are self-conscious about it. It’s a form of exposure therapy, doing things that make you uncomfortable until you get used to it and start to gain confidence. Never push yourself to the point where you cannot go outside in the clothes you picked; take baby steps. And if not flaunting your stretch marks makes you confident, wear clothes that cover them. What is important is that you are wearing outfits for yourself, not for others.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article, have an amazing day! Sydney