I know, we all hate Valentine’s Day. If we’re single, there’s the pressure to find a date; if we’re in a relationship, there’s the pressure for extravagant dining and gifts. And for what? Single people are no more single on February 14th. Couples don’t really need an excuse for a date night, especially not one that involves so much saccharine pink decor and overpriced aphrodisiac dinner specials. This year, I started thinking about another reason to hate Valentine’s Day: it’s not a real holiday. But wait, doesn’t it have something to do with a Saint Valentine? Turns out, not really. There are a whole bunch of saints named Valentine, one of which is said to have been born on February 14th, but there is no evidence that that saint had anything to do with romantic love, except, of course, of God. As scholar Jack B. Oruch wrote in his hilarious article St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February, “We are even unsure of the means by which the saint became associated with birds, flowers, and the ceremonial choosing of mates on his day.” And that’s a medieval scholar talking. Some have traced the Valentine-love connection to Chaucer, or Shakespeare, but then others say that’s not authentic either, because it doesn’t go back far enough.
But MM‘s question, as always, is: what is “authentic,” and how much does that really mean? Most of us recognize that there’s no way to ascertain whether Jesus was born on December 25th. (Read Biblical archaeologists’ explanation “How December 25 Became Christmas” here.) Thanksgiving is not a commemoration of an actual dinner party with Pilgrims and Native Americans, it was originally proclaimed as a holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. That’s not to mention those amorphously commercial holidays of Mother’s and Father’s Day. Interestingly, although it’s not an “authentic” religious holiday, religious fundamentalists in India, and Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia have all warned against celebrating the holiday. So who cares where Valentine’s Day came from? Isn’t any excuse to celebrate love a good one?
Tell me, dear reader(s), what do you think?