September 30, 2016

The History of Valentine’s Day

by Colby Frazier

Like its winter counterpart, Christmas, Valentine’s Day has traveled a long strange trip to its current iteration as a consumer free-for-all.

Although it remains unclear when widespread consumption came to dominate the holiday, love has long been a hallmark, no pun intended, of Feb. 14.

According to the children’s book “Valentine’s Day,” which is about as perfectly stripped down a synopses of the holiday one can find, the celebration of Valentine’s Day can be traced back to the ancient Romans, who on Feb. 14 prayed to Juno, queen of all gods and goddesses, with hopes that the queen would help young people get married.

Illustration from Harper’s Weekly Magazine 1864

Illustration from Harper’s Weekly Magazine 1864

As Christianity spread and polytheism declined, the Pope put his own twist on the holiday. He traded the Juno for for Saint Valentine, the Christian saint of love, retaining the date.

Exactly how, or which Valentine, is the saint of love, is unclear. One legend indicates that Valentine, before being beheaded in Rome, falls in love with a blind girl, and passes her a note before being executed. Upon opening the note, the girl is miraculously healed and sees that it’s signed, “From your Valentine.”

In another legend, Valentine is imprisoned for performing weddings, which were banned by a Roman emperor who believed unmarried soldiers would make better soldiers. This Valentine was executed on Feb. 14. To sweeten the story, rumor has it an almond tree rose up from near his grave and soon blossomed with pink flowers.

Fast-forward a couple thousand years and you’re in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Feb. 14 falls in the doldrums of deep winter. For months, Zion’s metropolis has been a frozen, leafless place, where its inhabitants regularly wallow in a pot of self-induced hazardous waste that many refer to as an “inversion.”

Amid this cheer comes Saint Valentine’s Day, Saints’ style. Yes, Mormons and non-Mormons alike enjoy the thrill of a few dozen roses grown in a dusty field halfway around the world, equally.

Gift card companies, candy makers, restaurants … heck, the DOW, S&P 500, NYSE and a myriad other complex acronyms, bet top dollar that every man, woman and child in America will spend a bunch of money, mostly on things they don’t need, on Valentine’s Day.

Sure, a guy named Valentine might have been murdered for holding tight to his Christian beliefs a millenia or so ago, but it’s important to keep your eye on what’s in front of you.

It is quite possible that businesses would fold economies would collapse and jobs would be slain if all we did on Valentine’s Day was to give our loved ones a hug, and ask Juno to lead that awkward uncle, brother or sister quickly into the arms of matrimony.

With that in mind, happy Valentine’s Day.