As Feb. 14 looms closer, many of us are either scrambling to find gifts or planning a “galentine’s” night. High expectations are planted on the shoulders of significant others on a day when chocolates, flowers, and stuffed animals seem like a necessity. But who is to blame for this sensation? The history of Valentine’s Day is surprisingly gory for such a warmhearted holiday.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, several St. Valentines were executed on Feb. 14 as a result of the prosecution of Christians in 270 A.D., during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus. Some medieval legends claim that St. Valentine would perform Christian marriages or pass love notes to jailed Christians, but these claims don’t seem to have much basis.
Other scholars believe that Valentine’s Day is a cover up for the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia. Lupercalia took place in mid-February, with a cult of drunk men running half-naked through the streets, and making animal sacrifices. The festival came to an end in 496 A.D. when Pope Gelasius denounced it.
Shakespeare and Chaucer both mentioned it in their work. Chaucer referred to it as “seynt Volantynys day,” which he claimed was the day of the year when all birds would mate. After Shakespeare’s Ophelia stated that she was “Hamlet’s Valentine,” the word and holiday gained popularity.
For centuries, people have given valentines, chocolates, and flowers on Feb. 14. Candy companies take full advantage of this exchange, and one can’t walk into a store in February without being immediately bombarded with aisles of heart-shaped boxes.
As a Gen Z, I loved Valentine’s Day growing up. Pink was my favorite color, and I loved getting dressed up and making valentines for all of my classmates. It was a day when everyone was required to give something to everyone, and even small gifts like cards or candy could brighten a little kid’s day. Coming home from school was such a rush because it meant I could open my decorated cardboard mailbox and go to town on chocolate.
“In my childhood for Valentine’s Day, I used to go out to dinner with my family and that was always fun, it became a tradition,” said Lisa Striffolino, a sophomore at The University of Tampa. “I always looked forward to Valentine’s Day because of that.”
Unfortunately, as we’ve gotten older, Valentine’s Day has seemed to lose its sparkle. Unless you’re in a relationship, the chances of you getting a valentine or gift are slim, and even if you are in a relationship, a tenseness looms over the day.
“I feel like there’s an expectation for people to get each other gifts,” said Kristin Quarless, a sophomore at UT.
Our generation seems to have negative feelings towards Valentine’s Day as we’ve gotten older. Less people are in relationships, and more people are either in “situationships” or are single. But in the past few years, I’ve noticed a positive spin on the holiday.
I can remember my first “Galentine’s Day” experience my sophomore year of high school. My friend decorated her basement in pink and red decorations, and we had a fun sleepover concluded with heart-shaped donuts for breakfast. This idea has gained a lot of popularity over the past few years, and it’s a fun way to celebrate with friends if you’re single.
Whether you’re single or in a relationship for Valentine’s Day, take time to celebrate with the ones you love. Although it’s a bit of a scam, it’s a reminder to appreciate your close friends.