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Valentine's Day: Holiday or Hoax?

Cuffed or un-cuffed, most people agree that Valentine’s Day is a headache! If you’re single, you get to sit through a day of lovey-dovey Instagram posts flooding your feed. If you’re in a relationship, you’re plagued with the impossible task of finding that special V-Day gift.

No matter how heartbreaking or heartwarming February 14th turns out to be, this holiday has withstood the test of time. As future PR professionals, it’s important for us to understand how this day, claiming to celebrate love, has turned into the ultimate excuse to sell flowers, comically large teddy bears and, most importantly, chocolates!

While St. Valentine is accredited with the fame of the day, according to an article by Time, V-Day can be traced back to the pagan festival of Lupercalia. Ancient Romans celebrated from February 13 and 15—but it wasn’t all candy hearts back then. Men and women would be paired up by a matchmaker for the festival and the men would slap the women with goat and dog hides because it was believed to make them fertile. Yikes.

In the Middle Ages, that idea of courtly love and chivalry came into play. Celebrants of the St. Valentine’s festival felt it should be more cheerful and started associating it with romance. Poets, most famously Geoffrey Chaucer, linked the day with birds finding mates in the Springtime, which is right around the corner from February 14.

How did all of this come to be the red-and-pink-heart-plastered phenomenon we know today? In the mid-19th century, the heat of the industrial revolution, romantic phrases and images began popping up on greeting cards now that they could be mass-produced and sold at affordable prices.

The Time article noted that Cadbury’s heart-shaped boxes of chocolates originated in the 1860s, the Hershey Kisses in 1907 and Valentine’s Day-themed greeting cards were made by Hallmark in 1913.

As a society, we’ve upheld our love for love: in 2016, $19.7 billion was spent by consumers for Valentine’s Day. Yet, we still don’t know the official origin story of this day.

No matter how you feel about it, February 14 is coming and nearly every company has something to say about it. Valentine’s Day gives make-up companies a platform to release collections, candy companies to make heart-shaped sweets, jewelry stores to make that perfect necklace your girlfriend has pinned on her Pinterest wall a million times in the hopes that you see it, and the list goes on.

Whether or not you plan on feeding into the hype of Valentine’s Day, it will always be a major day in our society, especially for those of us getting into PR or Advertising. So, single, taken or “it’s complicated”, I encourage you to sit back, chow down on some discounted V-Day chocolate and pop in your favorite rom-com!

This blog post was written by Paige Kunkel, Director of Recruitment.

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