Many Valentines, one day

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You don’t have to be a cynic to admit that Valentine’s Day is a big business opportunity for retailers, florists, jewelers, and restaurants.

Once the New Year’s celebration is over, the shelves at most stores become red and pink.

After Christmas, Valentine’s Day is the second -highest expenditure holiday, accounting for about $18 billion in sales.

According to the Greeting Card Association, more than 190 million greeting cards are sent each Valentine’s Day. An additional 15 million e-valentines were sent in 2010. Did Hallmark invent this holiday?

The first Valentine’s Day cards were sent in England in the 18th century, while mass-produced Valentines became available in the U.S. in the 1840s. In case you thought this holiday is limited to lovers, approximately 9 million people buy their pet something on this day to show their appreciation of their companionship, averaging around $5 per pet in 2011.

Tells you something about who really warrants affection, but is it mandatory to buy a gift on Valentine’s Day?

Before you run out shopping this weekend, note that, according to American Express (polling 2,000 people), 33 percent males and 20 percent females would prefer not to receive gifts on this day. A cranky 12 percent feel spending on Valentine’s Day is “a waste of money.”

Men generally spend twice as much as women on this day. Nearly percent of men plan to buy flowers for their significant other, while 48 percent of women have no gift-giving intentions at all. What happened to equality among the sexes? Perhaps equal pay for equal work would help change these ratios.

While 44 percent of respondents said how flush they feel determines how much they spend, how much they like the person was a close second (39 percent). Length of the relationship is also an important factor (32 percent), and can dictate whether one spends at all. Most feel that dating an average of five months is suitable before exchanging gifts.

Some experts state that Valentine’s Day originated from Saint Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that Saint Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had befriended him, and signed it “From Your Valentine.”

Others say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside Feb. 14 to honor Saint Valentine.

Still others claim that Valentine’s Day started already in the time of the Roman Empire: Feb. 14th was a holiday to honor Juno who was the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses, and the goddess of women and marriage. The following day, Feb. 15, began the feast of Lupercalia.

On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year. Pope Gelasius was, understandably, less than thrilled with this custom. So he changed the lottery to have both young men and women draw the names of saints whom they would then emulate for the year. Instead of Lupercus, the patron of the feast became Valentine’s. For Roman men, the day continued to be an occasion to seek the affections of women, and it became a tradition to give out handwritten messages of admiration that included the Valentine’s name.

And finally, some suggest that under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius the Cruel was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues, because they didn’t want to leave their lovers or families.

As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Saint Valentine was a priest during that time, and he and Saint Marius aided the Christian martyrs and secretly married couples. Because of this, Valentine was apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome who condemned him to be beaten to death. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, 270 A.D.

Pick which version suits your taste, but what remains constant in all of them is the dedication of a day to love and lovers. While some celebrate their love daily, others have to be reminded that love is worthy of celebration. And since the measure of all things American is the mighty dollar, we must spend money to prove our love.

What if we don’t? Isn’t a kiss enough? Must it be a hand-written letter or can it be a downloadable e-message? It’s the thought that counts, and thankfully there are no emperors to put us to death if we don’t do it correctly.

Raphael Sassower is professor of philosophy at UCCS. He can be reached at rsassower@gmail.com Previous articles can be found at sassower.blogspot.com