A Brief And Unromantic History Of Valentine’s Dayby Chiara Atik on February 02, 2011
You think Valentine’s Day is romantic? Ha! Ha ha ha! How wrong you are. Take a look at Valentine’s Day through time, and see the slow progression of the holiday that ruined true and authentic romance.
AD. 269 Valentine of Rome was a Catholic bishop who attempted to convert the Roman Emperor, and was therefore stoned and beaten with clubs.
Not romantic, right? Well, that’s where American Greetings, the world’s largest greeting card company steps in. They took this unromantic story and embellished it, telling History.com that on the night before his execution, Valentine wrote a letter to his beloved, signing it “Your Valentine”, and this became the first ever Valentine. Historians say this has no historical basis whatsoever.
1382 In order to commemorate the marriage of the 15 year old King Richard the II, Chaucer wrote a romantic poem in which he mentioned “birds choosing their mates on St. Valentine’s Day”. Very sweet…until you realize that English birds are very unlikely to mate in mid-February in frigid cold England. So he was probs not referring to Feb.14th. Also, unromantic when you consider it is a poem about two 15 year olds who’d never met, being forced into marriage as counter-reaction to The Great Schism.
1400 On Feburary 14th, Paris establishes a “High Court Of Love”, which dealt with, among other things, violence against women. The bad news: the judges are chosen based on poetry readings. Romantic? Sure. Effective? No.
1601: Shakespeare writes Hamlet, in which the title character mentions Valentine’s Day to Ophelia, albeit in an overtly sexual, harassing way that eventually leads her character to suicide.
1784: The first “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue” poem is published in Gammer Gurton’s Garland. The verse has been plaguing unimaginative, would-be poets ever since.
1797: In what can be considered the final, ignominious death of courtly love, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer is published, which basically gives men templates for poems which they can customize and use themselves.
Early 1800s: Printers have started to print mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards, which would often be sent anonymously. Some of these cards are sort of horrifying. (See left)
1847: Esther Howland, of Worcester, Mass, creates the first mass-produced Valentine’s with paper doilies. Pre-school teachers have rued her ever since.
1849: Graham’s American Monthly wrote: that “Valentine’s Day is becoming..nay, it has become a national heydey.”
20th Century: Chocolates, gifts, flowers start being exchanged in addition to Valentine’s day cards.
1975: “Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown” first airs on CBS. Charlie Brown brings a suitcase, hoping to get lots of Valentines. He gets none.
1980s: The diamond industry begins promoting Valentine’s Day as an occasion to exchange jewelry. You know, in addition to Christmas, Birthdays, Weddings and Anniversaries.
1998 Boy Meets World: Cory and Topanga break up on Valentine’s Day after Cory kisses another girl on a ski trip, thereby shattering the romantic illusions of an entire generation.
2010: Valentine’s Day hits theaters. It’s just like Love, Actually, except terrible. Maybe the worst movie ever made. Valentine’s Day has officially jumped the shark.