Saints and Chocolate
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
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