Hearts and flowers, romance and ribbons, saints and angels — massacres, whippings, sacrifice and sinners, all in the name of love, love, love! Many legends surround the origins of the clearly carnal celebration known as St. Valentine’s Day. In ancient Rome they feted the feast of Lupercalia, with the high priest sacrificing goat and dog. The noble youths of the day ran naked through the city with pelts of the slain animals. Young women waited giddily to be struck, believing that the ritual would increase their fertility. Later that day, a lottery took place randomly pairing young couples. Well, isn’t that romantic?
Fast forward to the 3rd century AD, when Emperor Claudius II executed two, or perhaps three, Christians named Valentine. Subsequently, the Catholic Church honored them with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day or should it be Sts. Valentines’ Day?
Next stop in the chain of love is 5th Century AD when Pope Gelasius combined Christian Valentine’s Day with the pagan Lupercalia. He was hoping to remove the barbarian aspect of the day. But rumor has it, the debauchery continued, albeit clothed.
So with so clearly violent and passionate roots, how did the day evolve into a somewhat noble and courtly event? Chaucer and Shakespeare certainly pushed the needle towards love and romance in their writings. The sentimentality caught on as chivalrous suitors created handmade tokens of devotion and the trend became popular in Britain and other European countries.
Across the pond, the Americans followed suit, wooing their heart throbs with languid verses of romance. These were often copied word for word from British published booklets filled with poetic soliloquies, thus creating a skilled balladist out of a clod.
Artist Esther Howland from Worcester, Massachusetts is credited with being the mother of American Valentine’s Day cards. When she received a card from a British admirer, Esther convinced her father, a book and stationery store owner, to back her enterprise. She was handsomely rewarded for her early entrepreneurial spirit.
The industrial revolution with its printing presses created Valentine’s Day Cards that were accessible to the masses and the amorous tradition flourished. In 1913, Hallmark took the box of chocolates and ran with it creating a multi-million dollar business.
And the mating games were on! It became de rigueur for every lothario to bestow on his or her mate, extravagant symbols of enchantment. Heart-shaped boxes of delectable bon bons, bountiful bouquets of blooms, gems and jewelry, especially diamonds, diner a deux, and on and on ad fortunum. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, total spending in 2019 is expected to be $20.7 billion!
But to some, the celebration of Valentine’s Day has become a pressure filled fete not unlike New Year’s Eve when being alone is perceived as an affliction.
Enter Galentine’s Day! Amy Poehler has been credited with introducing GD into our lexicon in a hilarious episode of Parks & Recreation. Many have seized the idea of celebrating friendships, rather than heartthrobs. Even couples madly in love feel the performance strain, creating somewhat of an ardorous backlash. NRF sites, “The spending increases come even though only 51 percent of Americans plan to celebrate the holiday, down from 55 percent last year and a high of 63 percent in 2007.”
Hilary’s friends have a brilliant solution. “I am actually going to a Valentine’s Day drinks party hosted by dear friends. The invitation reads: “No date — that’s great! No Valentine’s Plan — we got you man!! Please join us for a drink and get your big heart-on as friends married, divorced, and single get together to laugh and mingle.”
How perfect is that! Since the party is going to be in a local pub I plan to dress casually with a nod to the day. Jeans and a pretty feminine pink blouse are just the ticket. Paired with sexy heels and a bit of pink lip gloss, I will be more than ready to mingle.
No Date — That’s Great
I won’t be with my guy on the big day, but thanks to some great pals, we will be drinking Rose and celebrating our Galentine’s. As we all know, women really dress for each other, so I am anticipating some fabulous, frilly ensembles. I decided to be a real Galentine and shop some friends’ collections to put together this festively floral fashion. Laurette Kittle of Walker & Wade sources her vibrant inspirations in Bali and has a far reaching following. Teresa Colley, under the ShopLionessa brand, imports unique earrings and bags from the Philippines. Both have impressive individual style. The Schutz Collection from Brazil is a medium priced brand that are well designed and offer up-to-date styles. They are my new go-to when I want to try out a trend without the full monetary commitment.
Frills & Flowers
Until the big day, enjoy the hilarious Parks and Rec episode with Amy Poehler that launched Galentine’s Day …
What2WearWhere helps today’s busy women shop for life’s events, sports, workplace and travel. The site is a synthesis of the latest looks and trends compiled by Karen Klopp & Hilary Dick: www.what2wearwhere.com