Valentine’s Day

CLAUDIA CHEFFS/New University

That day is approaching again, whether you are ready for it or not. Valentine’s Day. Monday, Feb. 14, 2011. It’s here. And it’s looking like love is in the air this year.

According to a survey by the National Retail Foundation (NRF), Americans will be shelling out approximately a total of $15.7 billion this year. Apparently, the average person will spend about $116.21 for the holiday, which is up 11 percent from the year before.

Jewelry is shaping up to be the number one gift option in terms of dollars spent. About $3.5 billion will be spent on these sparkling wonders, while $3.4 billion will be spent on dining out. Rounding out the top five are flowers, clothing and candy.

In addition, our great nation will be shelling out over a billion dollars on greeting cards.

These results hint at two very intriguing trends. For one, our economy really is creeping back up again as consumers are ready to spend again. Secondly, though, it shows that we’re not very creative. I mean, greeting cards, flowers and candy? Really?
Maybe this is why so many people argue that Valentine’s Day is the epitome of a “Hallmark Holiday,” as we resort to your typical chocolate and cards year after year.

Or maybe it’s because the exact origins of this holiday for love is, as the History Channel says, “shrouded in mystery.”
Here’s what we absolutely, kind of know about Valentine’s Day: it’s named after St. Valentine and the holiday contains remnants from ancient Roman and Christian traditions.

The rest are legends that vary greatly. The Catholic Church distinguishes at least three different saints named either Valentine or Valentinus, each of whom ended up martyred.

In one legend, Valentine was a priest who served in Rome during the third century, a time when the emperor forbade marriage for young men because he believed single men were better soldiers. Valentine defied his orders and secretly performed marriages for young lovers. Of course, his despicable deeds were discovered and he was executed.

Other versions skip the discovery part, implying that Valentine was killed for helping Christians flee from the cruel Roman prisons where they were beaten and tortured.

Yet another account suggests that Valentine was the first person to send a “Valentine” greeting. According to this legend, he fell in love while he was in prison. Before he died, he wrote his love a letter, signing it “From your Valentine,” which is the expression used today.

Yet another legend goes so far as to say Valentine was rejected by his mistress and physically carved his own heart out to give to her.

As if the origin of the holiday wasn’t hazy enough, not even the reason behind why Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14 is known for sure.

Some say that it is to commemorate Valentine’s death or burial. Others claim that it was the Christian church that deliberately decided on that particular date, which revolved around the idea that February was a time for purification.

Even though Valentine’s death supposedly occurs around 270 A.D., the first trace of it being associated with love wasn’t recorded until 1382.

So now, nearly 630 years later, Valentine’s Day keeps evolving and has been adapted into celebrated holidays around the world.

France, England and Spain honor the day in a similar way as in the U.S.

For those hopeless romantics, countries like Romania, Portugal, Slovenia, Turkey, Brazil and Guatemala stress this as a day of love, sweethearts and relationships probably more so than we do here in America.

On the other hand, Finland, Estonia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Ecuador are among some countries that celebrate friendships in addition to love.

Even Asia celebrates V-Day, mainly after a fierce marketing effort, with China, Singapore and South Korea leading the way.
South Korea takes holidays for love to a whole different level – every 14th day of the month represents a love-related day. Most notably, April 14 marks “Black Day,” where those who didn’t receive anything on Valentine’s Day mourn their single life and eat black noodles.

And, finally, here in America, we have our own unique twists to this illustrious day.

Now, we have Singles Awareness Day. We have Anti-Valentine’s Day, which is conveniently shortened to Anti-V.D. Day. These two are gaining momentum with cards displaying a cynical or sarcastic tone towards romance, popular almost as long as Valentine cards have existed.

Obviously, we also have the traditional celebrations where we are projected to spend over $100 on gifts and where some of us feel pressured to give ourselves “Valentines” so we don’t feel left out.

But, at the end of the day, regardless of its unknown origin and the multiple theories about the patron saint himself, the end result is clear. Whether or not we give it to our significant others or to ourselves, we, as a nation, will be buying billions of dollars worth of cute, lovey-dovey greeting cards or e-cards, flowers and chocolate. And, come Monday, we will all expect, or at least hope for, a little something for ourselves, too.