Just when it seems that you have finally recovered from the Christmas holiday crazies, TAH-DAH! Valentine’s Day sneaks up and startles you, with its pink-and-red frilly froufrou-ness; pulling on your purse strings once more for the purchase of cards, chocolates, sweets treats, flowers and frivolities.
I am – admittedly – not a fan of the commercial craze that Valentine’s Day has become. Nor am I am fan of the emphasis this holiday continues to place on superficial beauty and “romance”; making girls who do not receive a Valentine, or flowers, or chocolate, what-have-you feel as unwanted and unbeautiful as yesterday’s garbage. This Hallmark Holiday (no offense to the wonderful folk at the greeting card conglomerate) makes singles the world over feel like utter freaks and undesirable wallflowers at some heart-themed soiree, if they are dateless on V-Day.
No, in general, I am not a fan. Though I must admit to enjoying handmade cards and pure sentiments of love from your child, partner, special someone, father, or best friend. Simple tokens of ever-elusive true love; these do the trick, for me. Then again, you do not need Valentine’s Day to do that, now do you?
I am a fan, however, of quirky facts; Valentine’s Day not excluded. Here are my fave fun facts about the day of hearts:
Secret weddings and bloody origins
The most heart-stopping theory about the origins of this holiday is quite bloody, in a tragic-romantic sort of way. It is said that during the rule of Emperor Claudius Gothicus (also known as Claudius II) from 268-270, Roman men were not allowed to marry during wartime, as their first and utmost duty was to fight for the Empire of Rome.
Unbeknownst to Claudius II, a bishop by the name of Valentine went behind his back, secretly performing wedding ceremonies; that is until he was found out, jailed, and eventually executed.
While incarcerated, the bishop wrote a note to the jailor’s daughter, which he signed “from your Valentine.” Thus, the birth of the Valentine’s tradition.
CARDio Day greetings
As the tradition evolved, it was considered bad luck to sign a Valentine’s card; so in Victorian times, sweet nothings were penned and given unsigned, or sealed with a kiss, an “X”, or a fingerprint.
In contrast to the outward repression and prudish front of the Victorian era, the 1800’s saw a rise in popularity of raunchy Valentine’s Day cards. In the USA, the Chicago post office rejected more than 25,000 cards because they were too indecent to be carried via U.S. Mail.
Humorous valentines were also favorites in the 19th century. These were known as “Vinegar Valentines.” A Scotsman by the name of John McLaughin introduced Vinegar Valentines in 1858, via his own publishing company in New York City.
Valentine’s Day cards are most often given to teachers, followed by children, mothers, spouses, sweethearts, and pets. Teachers generally receive the most Valentine’s Day cards, from children aged 6-10. Over 650 million Valentine’s cards are exchanged by children in this age group with their teachers, classmates, and relatives.
Second only to Christmas, Valentine’s Day is among the top greeting card holidays. In the United States, for instance, approximately 1-billion Valentine’s cards are given each year.
Singles strike back
In mockery of the commercialized day of hearts and the over-emphasis it places on romantic relationships, singles have come up with their own February 14 holiday: Singles Awareness Day, or S.A.D.
On this bittersweet, humorous holiday, single people gather to celebrate, or perhaps commiserate, their singlehood. Some of the most popular activities on Singles Awareness Day are single’s mixers, enjoying a meal with fellow singles, travelling with groups of singles, pampering sessions at salons or spas, giving gifts to yourself, etc.
“XO” marks the spot
On Valentine’s Day it is very common for people to include X’s and O’s in their greetings: XOXOXO, the commonly used symbol for hugs (O) and kisses (X). X’s and O’s are used throughout the year, mind you, as a symbol of endearment; but most especially on V-Day.
The use of X is thought to have originated with Christians in the Middle Ages; during which time, many people were illiterate. As such, they would sign their documents with an X, which was at once a simple mark to make and a reference to the Christian cross. Then, the signee of the document would kiss the X, as a token of their sincerity and their oath. Hence, X=kiss.
The origin of the O is not as easy to trace, but some who have studied the matter believe it dates back to the Jewish immigrants who arrived in the USA. Many were illiterate, and simply signed their documents with an O, in place of t7he Christian X.
Others believe the explanation to be much simpler: X could be a representation of two lips, kissing; while O is a visual symbol of arms enclosing someone in a hug.
Weird food and bird watching
In the medieval times (5th-15th Century, girls often ate strange food (such as pancakes slathered with ketchup) the night before Valentine’s Day, so that they would dream of their future spouse. The practice continued on to the 17th century, but food of choice was hard boiled eggs. Young women also pinned 5 bay leaves to their pillows, to aid in the dream process.
Another popular belief held by young women during the Middle Ages is that the kind of man a woman would marry could be determined by bird watching on Valentine’s Day. If the maiden spotted a sparrow, she would marry a poor man. A bluebird, on the other hand, meant a happy man was in store. A crossbill would bring an argumentative man as a groom, while an owl meant the woman would not marry and become a spinster.
Genuine love, all year round
There you have it – my own personal favorite trivia about the Hallmark Holiday that is Valentine’s. However you choose to celebrate it – or not – sharing and expressing genuine love with those dearest to you is always a heart-warming idea; on any day of the year!