Valentine’s Day history, musings, and motives

(Charlie Clay)

(Charlie Clay)

Sex, candy, and commercial “romance” – Saint Valentine’s Day. Around campus, some people are probably thinking, “Thank God it’s over.” Others are probably devouring their chocolates or watering their roses. And others, most likely, are thanking their lucky stars for favors (sexual and otherwise) they received in return for giving such gifts.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentines are given each year. So whether it makes you feel elated or like gouging out your eyeballs, there is no escaping Valentine’s Day.

Despite its incredible popularity, no one knows for sure how the holiday got started. There have been several candidates by the name of Valentine and numerous legends associated with them.

Many believe the holiday is named after a third-century Roman priest named Valentinus. It is said that when the emperor Claudius II banned young warriors from marriage, Valentinus aided couples by continuing to perform marriages in secret.

Doing so cost Valentinus his life, the legends say. The emperor discovered the priest’s deceit and ordered his execution.

According to some legends, Valentinus wrote the first valentine before his execution, signing a letter to his jailor’s kind daughter, “From your Valentine.”

The story of the martyred priest is romantic, but it’s debatable how much truth lies behind it. Other Saint Valentine’s legends are also met with skepticism and uncertainty.

Yet still, every Feb. 14, citizens of several countries bow down to mainstream commercialism in the name of the mysterious patron of love. Whoever he was, I doubt Saint Valentine would be pleased by his namesake.

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for romance. Like most women, I love flowers and I think chocolate is orgasmic. But I do not like Valentine’s Day.

The holiday is supposed to be about love, affection, and romance. In actuality, for the most part, I think the holiday is about popularity, sex, and Hallmark.

For example, look at a typical high school campus on Valentine’s Day. You’ll see a popularity contest. You might also feel as though you’re observing an elaborate mating ritual on an all-too-real Discovery channel.

Look at other institutions and work places on Valentine’s Day, and you may see the same sort of environment.

While this can bring smiles to some faces, for non-participants, observing this sort of charade can be incredibly depressing. For many, Valentine’s Day increases feelings of sadness, loneliness and rejection.

When so many people use the day as an excuse to parade their gifts and their dates, those who are lonely are made to feel even more alone.

The day inevitably causes some people to feel excluded, ignored, and unloved, even if they think showers of flowers and candy are not truly sentiments of love. I do not like the holiday because it is torturous and depressing for many people.

Another thing that I do not like about Valentine’s Day is that it makes it easy for people to equate love and lust. Yes, they go hand in hand, but in many cases, Valentine’s Day seems to be a way for men to mislead women about their feelings and buy sex with mass-produced “romance.”

I refuse to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the traditional ways. I do not want to publicly give or receive gifts, because I don’t want any onlookers to feel sad or lonely, and I do not want anyone to try to buy my affection.

I think that love is expressed through actions, not purchases. Although some women may enjoy receiving chocolate and roses every Feb.14 from their lovers, it doesn’t do the trick for me.

Everyone wants to feel special. But I believe love and affection should be shown every day, and uniquely, not just on holidays, not just with roses and chocolate.