Is This Sugarcoated Holiday, Sugarcoated?

By: Brigid McLaughlin

Modern day Valentines’ paint a picture of chalky pastel candies, stuffed bears that whisper “I love you,” and poems on overpriced stock paper, but where did these consumer driven must-dos’ for modern day relationships come about?

Most of the past on this day is dark and muddled, but the image of Valentine is often adorned with roses and birds-- not to distract from the dark fate the saint endured. Historians are unsure whether there were one or two Valentines’ however, according to Catholic Online, they do agree that the saint was brutally bashed and beheaded attempting to convert roman emperor Claudius Gothicus to christianity in the 3rd century.

Officially known as St. Valentine of Rome, February 14 was formerly known as St. Valentine’s day, as it refers to the death day, or feast day of the persecuted saint. While the official feast day is no longer, as of 1969, the day is still widely publicized as a day of love, which St. Valentine was the patron saint of.

Photo of St. Valentine

Photo of St. Valentine

Despite a grim death, St. Valentine created the long standing love letter tradition based on his love for a prison guard’s daughter. Before he was martyred, he was said to have cured her of blindness, converting onlookers to christianity in the process. In a final goodbye, he marked a letter to her “Your Valentine,” thus the tradition was born.

Aside from the murderous past that christianity paints of the holiday, some say that Valentine’s Day was a mode to overcome a Pagan tradition, Lupercalia. The 1-3 day festival was celebrated in mid-February with bloodied goat and dog fur that grotesquely symbolized rebirth. A far cry from love-laced letters, the festival was said to have lasted days or even weeks and celebrated a message that seems quite opposite to the Valentine message that pleads with you to keep the flame going-- out with the old and in with the new.

Apart from your religious background, it seems that a contemporary Valentine’s Day boasts bouquets of dark chocolate covered fruit or diamond necklaces for a lucky few. These over the top holiday habits haven’t slowed down either, with total revenue for the day reaching a whopping 1.4 billion this year according to IBIS World.

Merchandising and Consumer Affairs Professor at CSULB Jacquelyn Morell commented on the rising consumerism associated with the holiday of love, “Similar businesses see the success and follow suit. Soon enough restaurants, flower shops, travel companies, etc. are marketing how you can make Valentine's Day special with their products and services. The consumer bites, the cycle continues, the rest is history.”

Perhaps our holiday shopping habits are just that, habitual, and with each passing season and the pursuit of consumerism, V-Day is no exception. Doctor’s order? Buy the gift, save the headache, but do it for the right reasons.

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