A Woman’s View: Valentine’s Day

By Donna Ward

Every account in history is open to interpretation and offers different points of view depending upon perspective. Valentine’s Day is a holiday celebrated every Feb. 14 in America, but where did it originate?

Legends throughout history began with truths at their origin, but were altered or distorted over the years, making it difficult to distinguish the fallacies from the truth. Fourteen out of 20 women interviewed in the NEast said they despised the “Hallmark Holiday” and felt that propaganda had given way to creating Valentine’s Day.

“Every year Valentine’s Day explodes around the city, and contrary to popular belief, most of us women hate the day.” said Chris Bergmann. “I would love to know who is at fault for having started this Hallmark Holiday.”

Valentine’s Day can be traced back as far as 197 A.D. to the priest Valentine of Terni who is speculated to have been killed during the persecution of Emperor Aurelian. The most common legend regarding St. Valentine is not linked to the saint above, but rather to the depiction of St. Valentine in Jacopo Da Varagine’s Legenda Aurea. This legend suggests that Valentine was a priest incarcerated for illegally marring young men in the Emperor’s army. Valentine, while in prison, healed his jailor’s daughter who was blind and before his execution wrote her a noted that read, “From your Valentine.”

Today, more than one billion cards and valentines are sent around the world in celebration of this holiday, making it the second-biggest card-sending day of the year. Women are the senders of more than 85 percent of Valentine’s Day cards.

“I always send out cards and gifts to my friends and family, but trying to get a single card or gift out of my hubby is next to impossible.” said Kathy Parker. “I find that men are less willing to celebrate this day than women, so my friends and I make it more of a friend day rather than a romantic day now.”

Women nowadays are focusing less on romantic gestures and more on the expression of friendship.

Restaurants in the NEast are already beginning to fill up on reservations for this Saturday’s Valentine’s Day dinner, and many are seeing a change this year. Instead of reservations being made for couples, more restaurants have to accommodate groups and parties.

“This year, my husband and I are taking the whole family out to dinner rather than spending time alone. It is a day about love, it doesn’t have to be couple love, friends and family are just as important.” said Parker.

There are still some that treasure this holiday and look forward to the romantic atmosphere Valentine’s Day brings.

“I am very excited about this coming Valentine’s Day because I have a wonderful boyfriend to spend it with me. In the past I hated the day because I didn’t have a good man.” said Lynn Romeo.

Despite the decrease in the holiday’s demands for couples, there are still many women who despise the pressures this holiday brings.

In the nineteenth century, handwritten declarations of love had given way to mass-produced greeting cards. The reinvention of the Valentine in the 1840s by Esther Howland of Massachusetts began the making of trademark mass-produced cards with romantic inclinations. It was at this time that more couples were sending love notes or “valentines” to express their feelings for each other. As the twentieth century progressed, so did the exchange of gifts on Valentine’s Day from a simple card or note to lavish and expensive gifts.

Today, valentines are seen being exchanged among couples, friends, co-workers and students. There are some people who jokingly refer to Valentine’s Day as “Singles Awareness Day” because of the overwhelming romantic inclinations that have become synonymous with this day in spite of its progression.

Let us know what you think about Valentine’s Day and send in your opinions or comments. Is Valentine’s Day your friend or foe?

A Woman’s View is a column about women’s issues written by NEast Magazine’s columnist, Donna Ward. The column appears every other Thursday on NEastPhilly.com.

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