Yes, Valentine’s Day really is one of those Hallmark moments, a time when every chocolate factory pumps out confections and sticks them in heart-shaped boxes, upping the price on sentimentality. When florists rub their hands in heartfelt glee and card manufacturers weep in joy at the sales. That’s what Valentine’s Day is. That, and a chance for people to show how much they love each other so they can ignore the feeling for the rest of the year.
You might gather I’m a cynic about these merchant manufactured occasions. We can thank the Victorians for a lot of this, from Valentine’s Day to birth stones to all those events where it’s the thing to do, you know; to give jewelery or flowers or chocolate. Like so many other things, emotions have been manipulated by the need to sell sell sell.
And really, the original St. Valentine was a martyr. We don’t know which Valentine this heartwarming occasion is based on because there were two or three and none of them had anything to do with sentimental love. Chaucer wrote about and fictionalized the day, though it’s possible it was tied to the earlier Roman celebration of Lupercalia for health and fertility. Chaucer lived in the era of troubadours and courtly love, when the idea of a pure and chaste love, of flirting endlessly without consummating the sentiment was the height of courtly deportment. If you think about it, a Christian martyr might be more likely to have died of spiking or crucifixion than of a broken heart.
But true to the gooey feelings of Valentine’s Day, it seems that the tales were fabricated. We know the heart shape is old and has been used for centuries but there is debate of how the shape came about since the human heart has only a vague similarity to the heart symbol. It could have been the silphium seed, a heart-shaped contraceptive plant, or the representation of a woman’s buttocks, vulva or pubic mound. If indeed the representation is one of the latter, then imagine a young man giving his love a card with a valentine, or a woman doing the same. It seems it wouldn’t have been so much the gesture of sentimental love as it would have been of lust. “Here you are, I’m giving myself to you. Here’s my vulva. Let’s have sex.” Hmm, kind of ruins that dewy-eyed view of Valentine’s Day. But then, have people really ever needed a reason to have sex? Excuses yes, but the reason was already there.
I prefer to think people can demonstrate affection, love and lust whenever they choose to. So however you celebrate your Valentine’s Day, whether it be with giving a rose or gorging on the love-replacing chocolate, may it be stress free. :D