By Benton Killion, assistant finance director
Valentine’s Day, a holiday celebrated around the world, brings joy and happiness to all those blessed with a happy relationship. This holiday, supposedly based on love, does prove to be a nice break from the monotony of everyday life and provides a time for each member of the relationship to express their love for one another. While this is a sweet message, the true history of Valentine’s Day is much more sinister.
During the era of the ancient Romans, Valentine’s Day focused a lot less on the love for one another than we do today. On the holiday, a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and the women were whipped with the hides of the deceased animals. To them, this was not just some barbaric beating of women, but they believed it was a way to increase female fertility. It is also believed that we get the name “Valentine’s Day” from Emperor Claudius II who is said to have executed 2 men, both named Valentine, on February 14 during the third century. These executed men were subsequently honored by the Catholic Church by naming the holiday after them.
Of course, this is not what we think of when we think of Valentine’s Day. We think of sweets and little gifts given by secret admirers and the tinge of excitement and drowning fear as one asks someone on a date for the first time. Despite these hopeful moments, other tragedies have occurred on this holiday, most memorably the Valentine’s Day Massacre.
17 centuries after the Romans, in 1929, seven men in Chicago were taken to a garage in Lincoln Park and were murdered by a rival gang in the morning of February 14. When the assassins left the garage, they were dressed as police officers escorting suspects. This event was denounced as the Valentine’s Day Massacre.
For most people today, however, this day is a happy occasion to celebrate love and romance. The day leads to big purchases and romantic dinners to show one’s ardor for their loved one. For business owners, this can even prove to be one of the most lucrative days in the year, especially for jewelers and restaurateurs.
Countless television shows, movies, plays, and musicals contribute to this theme of love, and most perpetuate the feeling that the only way to show your love for another person is to buy them something expensive.
In 1938, the De Beers diamond company launched a highly successful ad campaign, convincing the world that the only way to show your love for someone is to buy them a piece of crystallized carbon on a ring. Unfortunately for the general public, these priceless jewels are so common that experts estimate over a quadrillion carats of diamonds exist naturally on Earth, but because De Beers has formed a monopoly on these worthless pieces of carbon, the company can control the price. At the beginning of Cecil Rhodes’ empire on diamonds, he began buying up all of the diamond fields, including one belonging to two brothers named “de Beer”. There was urgency when these diamonds were discovered because once something becomes common, the demand, along with the cost, for the item decreases, so if Rhodes wanted to build a monopoly, he needed to act fast.
Though he was an opportunistic and seemingly intelligent man, Cecil Rhodes was not a kind one. In 1890, soon after the creation of his diamond monopoly, Rhodes implemented various Acts of Parliament to push minorities from their homes, hoping to “stimulate them to labour” and increase his own personal wealth. During Oppenheimer’s reign, however, the company pushed people to buy diamonds to symbolize their undying love and devotion to each other, using one of the best marketing schemes in history.
Despite these rocky origins and contemporary misguided interpretations of the holiday, many do believe it to be a positive event. This evening provides a scheduled night for couples to demonstrate their love and respect for each other and generally proves to be a romantic, pleasant night for those who remember they are in a relationship with a narcissist who requires gifts to reinforce their self-esteem.
Unfortunately, for about ⅓ of the population, this holiday serves as an unwelcome reminder that they have no significant other in our life to spend our time with. Of course, there are friends, but friends do not provide the same excitement as a romantic relationship on this day, and it certainly does not help the dateless party’s own self-esteem when nobody wishes to ask them on a date for the love-driven holiday. Even for people who are already in a relationship, however, the weeks preceding and following the 14th are most likely to be when a relationship ends.
For those who have a significant other, Valentine’s Day is a perfect excuse to go out and spend a romantic night together, however, it should not be required for the survival of the relationship. Additionally, if you are not in a relationship, you don’t have to worry about living up to expectations or being disappointed or feigning enthusiasm to make your significant other feel better. This day can be hard when you’re not in a relationship, and it doesn’t help when those who are, feel the need to flaunt it in your face because it’s a special occasion, but don’t worry if you don’t have a date because almost every relationship in school will have a dramatic ending, and you’ll be better off without that in your life. Just do what makes you happy and you will have a much better high school experience.