Yesterday as I was sitting in my math class, listening to all the love-birds’ plans for Valentine’s Day a guy raised his hand and said “Did you know that Valentine’s Day is a made up holiday invented by card companies so they could make money?” This launched a long discussion about all the made up holidays in our lives, offending some, while causing harsh judgment from others. Sitting in the midst of this heated debate, I began to wonder about the history of this holiday and the ways it is celebrated around the world.
Long, long ago, marriage was banned in Rome because Emperor Claudius II believed that marriage made soldiers weak and more vulnerable. St. Valentine, however, did wedding ceremonies in secret. This led to him getting beheaded by the royalty. Later, February 14th was chosen to remember this soft-hearted saint and the Church Christianized the holiday for their benefit.
Over the years the romantic traditions increased and now Valentine’s Day is the second most popular for sending greeting cards, only surpassed by Christmas. Annually, Americans spend roughly $20 billion on gifts and more than 35 million heart-shaped candy boxes are sold. Restaurants are flooded and over 200 million roses are produced. Whatever the history, retailers certainly enjoy and profit from this holiday.
Through my research I came across several interesting facts. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is like the WPA dance; women get the men chocolate and treat them to a wonderful day of romance. In return March 14th is “White Day” when the males treat the women. In Ghana, Valentine’s Day is known as “National Chocolate Day”. As a major cocoa exporter, this move greatly improves Ghana’s tourist industry. In Estonia, in order to include single people, February 14th is called friends day. In the Philippines, thousands of couples get married in mass gatherings.
Schools in America partake in fun Valentine’s Day activities. Elementary schools around the nation have parties with a variety of candy. Some middle schools have a dance with awkward new couples trying to waltz together. In my high school, the Senior Class sells carnations to raise money for their prom and various clubs sell candy grams. My AP Psychology teacher even had us make Valentine’s Cards relating to psych themes like brain functions and Freud. Schools are covered in reds and pinks and social media explodes with pictures of couples.
No matter the history and original intent, I have to agree with my math teacher’s response to the students claim. Everyone enjoys having another holiday. And I particularly appreciate the excuse to eat chocolate.
Happy Valentine’s Day!