Columnist discusses her distaste for Valentine’s Day.
BY GRACIE HELFRICH, ’23. GRAPHICS BY LUCY O’BRIEN, ’22.
My relationship with Valentine’s Day is, in a word, tangled. Every year Feb. 14 rolls around, and every year I am disappointed. It is safe to say I am more of a Halloween gal. A materialistic, relationship harming and overall problematic holiday is not my cup of tea. At the very least I’m consistent: my Valentine’s Day is never spent going to dinner, exchanging gifts or enjoying the holiday at all.
The ancient Romans celebrated their own form of Valentine’s day: the feast of Lupercalia. The celebrations were held from Feb. 13 to Feb. 15. Filled with irresponsible sexual behavior, animal sacrifices and violence, this holiday was an utter fiasco. Today, we set aside a day for romantic love in the grimmest portion of winter. But in theory, Valentine’s Day isn’t that “bad.” A day devoted to loving your significant
other sounds nice: spending time with them, appreciating what they do for you and what you do for them. However, that’s not what we as a society today value about Valentine’s Day. In 2019, a LendingTree survey found that the average American was expected to spend $142 on a gift for their significant other. We view the value of our holiday experience through a materialistic lens.
The origin story of Saint Valentine begins with Roman ruler Claudius the Cruel attempting to build a stronger military. He ran into problems when he discovered men were not interested in leaving their wives and families to fight. To combat this, he banned all new marriages and engagements throughout Rome. Saint Valentine lived through this as a priest in Rome. He was outraged by Claudius’ new law and began to perform secret marriage ceremonies. Eventually, Valentine’s practices were discovered; Claudius ordered for Valentine to be clubbed to death and beheaded on Feb. This date became his feast day and today, Valentine’s Day.
I would argue that our notions of Valentine’s Day are not consistent with St. Valentine’s intentions. We prioritize goods and services over feelings and emotions on one of the few days out of the year we are expected not to. Our society’s new version of this holiday isn’t all bad though. Positive celebrations
such as Galentine’s Day have emerged. Although Galentine’s Day is not consistent with the romantic, love aspects of Valentine’s Day’s history, it is a fun way for single people to enjoy the holiday.
Especially for those in relationships, it’s a stressful holiday overall. Making dinner reservations, buying presents and anticipating what your significant other wants is taxing and applies a lot of unnecessary pressure to the relationship. According to an article from CNN, Facebook relationship statuses are more likely to become “single” from Feb. 14 to spring break. This same study also showed that you are more likely to be broken up with on Valentine’s Day than Christmas Day. This information leads me to question
why we celebrate Valentine’s Day at all; why take so much time and effort in some sort of grand endeavor just for it to hurt you more than help you?