Halftime Leisure

Love On The Hilltop: A History Of Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2015

Have you ever stopped to wonder, “who was that jerk that decided to come up with a holiday to remind singles just how alone they really are?” Well, look no further!  National Singles Awareness Day, here we come!

So, you might ask, what’s so great about this St. Valentine? What horrible thing did he do to deserve to have a day that makes people all gushy and sentimental and have feelings and gross emotions like that?

Apparently, there are three different saints named Valentine recognized by the Catholic Church, and all of them died (well… as martyrs). Still, they died. Coincidence? I think not.

Legends differ as to what any of these Valentines did. According to one legend from third-century Rome, Valentine openly spoke out against Claudius II. Valentine protested the emperor’s decree that all young men remain single so that they would focus better on military training. The Emperor responded by having Valentine promptly executed. As you can probably tell, Claudius was known for having an excellent sense of humor.

Others believe that St. Valentine’s Day originated from a pagan holiday called Lupercalia, which was traditionally celebrated every February 13-15. However, this celebration focused more on health. In fact, the earliest link between Valentine’s Day and romantic love didn’t come until the 14th century with the famous poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer wrote a 700-line poem called “Parlement of Foules” about mating birds (yup, this actually happened) to commemorate the engagement of King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. These two lovebirds married at age 15 – a romance for the ages, I’m sure. I’ll leave it up to someone else to decide whether or not Chaucer wrote that poem tongue-in-cheek.

But when did the mushy, over-the-top, red and pink cards begin? When did Valentine’s Day start its gradual decline into Singles Awareness Day, aka SAD?

Valentine’s Day spread throughout Great Britain in the 1600s. By the 18th century, colonists in the United States were already sending hand-made cards to each other. But the mass production of Valentine’s Day cards began under the entrepreneurial ingenuity of a young woman named Esther Howland. Talk about serious girl power.

After resisting the patriarchy and graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 1847, Howland received an ornate congratulatory greeting card from one of her father’s friends. Inspired by its obnoxious gaudiness, she decided to start making cheap, decorated cards using supplies from her father’s bookstore, creating her own business which was an instant success. By her company’s prime, Howland was amassing more than $100,000 annually, so she decided to sell her business in 1881.

Today, as much as it’s about being with your significant other, Valentine’s Day is about single people scoffing together at people who think they’ve found everlasting love. Like the episode of Friends where Chandler and Janice bond over their shared anger at Joey and his date, singles need to unite and harass couples everywhere. #YesAllSingles

Take Leslie Knope’s now-famous “Galentine’s Day,” for example. Instead of talking about their boyfriends and husbands, women get to sit down, enjoy some frittatas, and have fun expressing their love for one another.

As much fun as it is to have a significant other, Valentine’s Day should have the same values as any holiday. We should be celebrating family, friends, and most importantly, ourselves. That’s right, for singles like me, Singles Awareness – er, sorry, Valentine’s Day is more about treating yourself and eating your feelings in the form of ice cream. Nothing tells your body you love it like a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, people. Pick a core flavor and your body will love you forever. And once you love yourself, you can forget about everyone else.

The beautiful thing about Valentine’s Day in 2015 is that we can pick up the remote and go to Netflix to find the perfect movie for our Valentine’s Day mood. Of course, sometimes it’s fun to escape to a romantic comedy and want to fall in love again. For me, Silver Linings Playbook makes me feel all soft and fuzzy and warm. If you feel like watching a sappy, teenage romance movie, there’s She’s All That or The Notebook or the whole Twilight series. If you’re feeling really mushy, there’s always Disney love stories – I’d recommend Frozen. For the confidently single, there’s fun dramedy flicks like Juno and The Princess Bride.

No matter what, Valentine’s Day will always be a day for couples to feel totally in love – and for singles to be uber-conscious of the lack of romance in their lives. But that doesn’t mean that all of us need to forget what we truly love: puppies, ice cream, and Netflix binge-watching Friends.

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