Valentine’s Day, as is common knowledge, is filled with heart shaped chocolates, flowers and overly sized stuffed animals in almost every store. However, the holiday doesn’t have the sweetest beginning according to legend.
Upon diving further into this dark history of the holiday, starting with the name, it stems from two men with the name of Valentine, who were executed in the third century A.D. according to a Feb. 13, 2011 article, ‘The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day’ by Arnie Seipal found on www.npr.org. Along with the dark history attached to the name Valentine, that the article said during that time there were many martyrs who held the name Valentine — as Valens was a popular surname of the era. One Saint Valentine in particular was connected to the date Feb. 14 according to “Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine” by Henry A. Kelly; this claim helps explain why the modern holiday falls on Feb. 14.
But how does this dark and gloomy name come to be the joy filled and loving holiday of today?
According to an article from Speculum (vol. 56, no. 3) in 1981 by Jack B. Oruch, there was no romantic connotation until Chaucer’s poetry with the use of Valentine in the 14th Century gained notice, He found the first record of there being any association to Valentine’s Day and affection in the 1382 “Parlement of Foules” by Geoffrey Chaucer.
Chaucer wrote, “For this was on seynt Volantynys day whan every bryd comyth to chase his make.” This poem translates to “on Valentine’s Day is when every bird come and chose his mate.”
After the onset of the medieval period, ‘Valentine’ and its relation and association with romance became more normalized through the works of famous poet and playwright, William Shakespeare with reference to the name in the play Hamlet. The name was also referenced in the early English “Paston Letters” written in 1477 by Margery Brewes.
She was writing to her future husband, John Paston, and identified him as “my right well-beloved Valentine” according to Davis Norman of the Oxford University Press.
The name Valentine has had a dark and gloomy history, and as time progressed more poets and writers used the name to express their love for others.
Today’s Valentine’s Day offers many interpretations of what love is and how and with whom it should be celebrated. People of all ages find different meaning in the holiday.
Adaija Holman (17), a high school senior, interprets love as being able to work though those differences people may face.
“Love is about just being with your other half,” she said. ”Your personalities are just perfect for one another, and having those differences but having [the relationship] still work out.”
Joshua Ault (17), another high school senior, sees love as being able to have trust.
“Love to me is being completely vulnerable to someone and trusting they will make the right decisions,” he said. ”Love is being selfless and unconditional, putting their wants, needs and goals before yours.”
Erica Lee (38), a Junction City community member explains how she shows her love.
“I show my love through actions — love is an action,” Lee said.
Tychelle Jones (41) expressed her thoughts on the meaning of love by saying, “love to me means unconditional regard for someone’s emotional, mental and physical wellbeing,”
Dan Kirkpatrick (47) explains how the day was a little more special in the early years of his marriage.
“When I first got married, which was a long time ago — well over 20 years — Valentines Day was like more of a big deal, because it was just me and my wife,” he said. “So, we would always go out and do something, usually having a nice dinner or I would just get her something nice. But now that we have four children, the day is just another day really, but we will still tell one another happy Valentine’s Day.” Kirkpatrick said.
Margie Pinaire (63) explains the more entertainment enjoyment from the holiday.
“We try and get each other the funniest, stupid cards,” she said. “One with some kind of a joke. We usually try and one up another to see who can get the funniest one.”
Cindy Williams (78) shared how her and her husband, Edward, spend the day and how they interpret love.
“Love is to respect one another and staying in communication,” she said. “During the day we try and do different things, and always appreciating one another. We always buy cards for another and ask each other suggestions about where to go out and eat if we do.”
Through the years Valentine’s Day has become one of the most popular consumer holidays. In the United States $27.4 billion will be spent on Valentine’s Day this year, and of that, 90 million dollars is spent on solely.
Each year this number continues to grow, and the popularity of the holiday does the same. The name Valentine has gone from gloom and darkness to love and joyfulness.