The Meaning of Love

Is Valentine’s Day putting more pressure on the society, Solomon Elusoji asks

According to Statistics Brain, a self-styled research institute based in Los Angeles, the average global spending on a typical Valentine’s Day can easily surpass $13 billion, (according to market research firm, IBIS World, Valentine’s Day sales reached $17.6 billion in 2010) with millions of people purchasing flowers, cards, candy, jewelry, and gift cards for their loved ones. There is a lot of dining and eating out too. Although the research institute does not provide clarity on how it arrives at its numbers, they make for fascinating reading. One of the data points on the website reads that 53 per cent of women will end their relationship if they don’t get something for Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day, feted as a day for romance (or, depending on who you ask, a day for love), has a quirky history. It most likely started with decision of the Catholic Church to honour the martyrdom of two men – both named Valentine – who were executed by Emperor Claudius II on February 14, during the 3rd Century A.D. Then, in the 5th Century, Pope Gelasius, in a bid to stamp out traditional Roman pagan rituals, decided to merge St. Valentine’s Day with the feast of Lupercalia, which used to also be celebrated in February. According to Arnie Seipel, writing for NPR, Lupercalia was a brutal, naked matchmaking feast, where “the men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animal they had just slain.” Quoting a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Noel Lenski, Seipel adds that Lupercalia was “a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it.”

Valentine’s Day can trigger feelings of sadness and anxiety, Psychotherapist, Linda Walter, argues. “TV commercials selling diamonds, flowers, chocolate, and even cars began to show up almost a month ago, commercials filled with people depicting perfect, everlasting love,” she says. “It’s a day filled with a lot of expectations because of all the hype. It’s hard, both for those in relationships and those single, not to compare ourselves to the loving couples shown in the commercials. We may feel a sense of deep loss if our lives don’t measure up.” More: