Congratulations on getting through January! We’re fully into the swing of 2023 now, which means that Valentine’s Day, whether you love or hate it, is peeking over the horizon. Detractors of the holiday say that it is made up to boost card sales at a quiet time of year, but is there more to it than that? And, can Valentine’s day be an excuse to celebrate more than just traditional romantic love?
Where did Valentine’s Day come from?
Like Halloween, the history of Valentine’s day is shrouded in myths and mystery. Some of Saint Valentine’s bones can even be found in an unassuming Glasgow church. Gifted to the city by Franciscan monks, the bones spent years lost in a cardboard box on top of a wardrobe. They are now a romantic spot for proposals!
Saint Valentine was a Roman priest and Christian martyr. He was decapitated on February 14th, but the basis of the holiday of love is said to have come from the secret weddings he performed. However, Valentine was a very popular name in Ancient Rome. There are actually up to 50 stories of saints called Valentine! So, this historical connection is a bit unreliable.
Some historians think the roots of the holiday of romance are actually in a poem from the Middle ages. In ‘Parliament of Fowls’, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote: “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate.” There’s some debate about what exactly Chaucer was aiming for, but the idea caught on. By the 15th century, nobles had started writing poems to their romantic interests for Valentine’s Day. Shakespeare also included a reference to Valentine’s Day in his play Hamlet, 200 years later.
Valentine’s gets vinegary
The introduction of mass-produced mechanical valentine’s, towards the end of the 18th century, changed Valentine’s Day again. The cards were printed with symbols of love, paper lace and pre-written verses. The mass-produced cards helped commercialise the holiday, but Valentine’s Day really took off in the Victorian era with the introduction of the penny post and vinegar valentines.
Vinegar valentines were cards that ranged from joking and comic to genuinely cruel. Cheap printing allowed vinegar valentines to be produced to be sent to your annoying next-door neighbour, estranged spouse, overbearing landlord or employer, or anyone else you wanted to insult! The cheeky or rude cards were extra appealing as they could be sent anonymously and cheaply using the newly reformed postal system. The London post office delivered over a million cards on Valentine’s Day 1871. There were probably even more sent, as postmasters often threw out vinegar valentines they thought were too rude!
A modern twist
In a 2010 episode of Parks and Recreation, Valentine’s Day underwent a new evolution when the character of Leslie Knope introduced Galentine’s Day, which is ‘only the best day of the year’! In the show, Galentine’s Day takes place on February 13th and involves ‘ladies celebrating ladies’ instead of romantic relationships. The idea was a hit, and over the past decade it has become increasingly well-known. The more inclusive Palentine’s Day also now exists.
In the original TV episode, Galentine’s Day festivities involved showering your female friends with gifts while eating brunch food. However, as a celebration of friendship, there’s really no wrong way to enjoy Palentine’s. Meet up with friends for activities you like to do together, or send them a care package to let them know you’re thinking of them. Just like traditional valentines, a heartfelt e-mail or handwritten letter can remind a friend how much you appreciate them.
Who’s left to celebrate?
Valentine’s Day is traditionally for romantic love and now Palentine’s day supplies an opportunity to celebrate friendship and platonic love. While it’s perfectly valid to just ignore Valentine’s day if you’re single, you could instead choose to celebrate your relationship with yourself! We’ve already found out that there’s no set traditions to Valentine’s Day. The history is muddled and people have always celebrated it in the ways they saw fit. So, why not create some traditions of your own?
Valentine’s Day could be a perfect opportunity to pamper yourself. Whether you would prefer retail therapy, a special meal or a spa day, it’s fun to treat yourself. Take some time to enjoy a hobby or catch up on your New year’s resolutions. It can be hard to feel grateful on a day that highlights what you might be missing, but searching for gratitude has been proven to help mental health! Having a break from social media for the day could be helpful as well. Focus on yourself, what you love about your life and ways to celebrate it. Love comes in all shapes and sizes – Valentine’s Day celebrations should too!