Bees, Epilepsy, and 18.6 Billion Dollars: Valentine’s Day is Not a Hallmark Holiday

by Jasmine Hanna-Funk

Valentine’s Day is often called a “Hallmark Holiday,” a day for corporations to sell chocolate and flowers to the masses in the name of a socially constructed idea of love.

But if February 14th is really all that, where did the name “Valentine’s” come from?

How has it been around for longer than these big businesses?

Who is Valentine?

          Well, there have been about a dozen saints and one pope with the name “Valentine” or something similar, but the holiday we know today is supposed to be based off two men, both named Valentine. Both were martyred, but they have very different stories:

          The first Saint Valentine lived in Rome when Emperor Claudius II decided that soldiers fought better without families at home to live for and banned marriage for all young men. Valentine performed marriages in secret for young couples, and was later executed for his crime.

          The second Saint Valentine also lived in Rome, but he was said to have tried to help Christians escape the jail that which he was confined. He wanted to help the Christians because they were often beaten and tortured in Roman prisons, and he was later killed after the jailor found out, but before that happened he fell in love with the jailor’s daughter. He wrote her a letter after she visited him in jail, and signed the note “From Your Valentine,” which is why people still sign love notes as “your Valentine” today.

          So, February 14th is more wholesome and traditional than most of us thought, but there are a few oddities often ignored about the holiday and the saints named Valentine:

  • Saint Valentine is often known for looking over the lives of romantic couples, but he is also the symbol for beekeeping, epilepsy, travelling, and fainting. So if you ever feel queasy during a trip to a Beekeeping Convention and you think you might have a seizure, think of Saint Valentine.
  • There are other Valentine’s Days for celebrating the other 10 saints and 1 pope with the same name, on November 3rd, July 6th, July 30th, and January 7th for the female martyr, St. Valentina.
  • Valentine’s Day is in February because the saints were both martyred around the time of Lupercalia, a Roman festival from February 13th-15th. This is also a type of romance celebration, where men would kill animals for sport and women would line up in the streets to be whipped with the carcass hides, because they thought it would make them more fertile.

         We’ve switched to new ways to celebrate love in February, we’re projected to spend 18.6 billion dollars on chocolate, jewelry, and flowers, and Saint Valentine’s crush has turned into 150 million cards printed and sold worldwide.