Valentine’s Day: From history to industry

Story by Elizabeth Hanson, Assistant Photo Editor

The history of Valentine’s Day began in ancient Rome around the 5th century. However, during that time the celebration wasn’t all paper hearts and chocolate. It was a twisted celebration of love that society has now altered to sell romantic cards, among other things.

The ancient Romans called this holiday the Feast of Lupercalia and celebrated it by whipping their women and getting drunk. This included entering the names of women into a lottery of love which men drew from. In Roman culture, people believed that if a woman was whipped, she would become more fertile and desirable.

Not as nice as the Feb. 14 holiday the world cherishes today, huh?

I don’t know about you but I’d rather not be subject to such a brutal and patriarchal event as being whipped into being more fertile.

The day of love has become a commercialized event so the industry can sell more hearts, cards and jewelry worldwide. You can thank the Kansas City, MO-based company, Hallmark Cards Inc, for the commercialization nationwide.

The company began to mass produce cards of love and sentiment in the early 20th century.

People invest in this holiday and buy all the cards that Hallmark puts out annually. The industry has been around for over 100 years and we’re still exchanging cash for cards.

Most holidays fall prey to the industry where the importance of the profit outweighs the actual meaning of the celebration. The day is about making money more than anything else.

People feel obligated to purchase flowers, chocolates and jewelry to show their affection or adoration for their significant other.

Other companies like the Hershey Company, Necco, Tiffany and Co. and Victoria’s Secret see a spike in their sales in the month of February because everyone and their brother spends money on materialistic things.

I have been guilty of supporting this industrial day of love. However, I still blame society for the heart-shaped chocolate box I bought on Feb. 13 in 2014 for myself.

It seems almost impossible to avoid supporting this holiday with the lure of chocolate at every turn. This includes commercials, billboards and aisles filled to the brim with pink, red and white candies.

Is there something more valuable for us, as consumers, to buy into? Why should we be buying into something that was created to take our money?

There are currently more single people in the world than people who have significant others. Since 1976, the percentage of single people has skyrocketed from around 20 percent to 50 percent.

With this change, it seems only right to replace this holiday for one that reaches a broader audience: single people.

Chocolate, and other materials, will never accurately measure the love someone can have for their significant others. Why spend money on something that can’t be bought? This is the real question we should be asking ourselves as this holiday draws closer.

Honestly, in the end, Valentine’s day can really suck if you’re single or you’re an ancient Roman celebrating Lupercalia. But hey, continue to celebrate this holiday any way you want.