Beware, the Ides of February

Laila Banerjee outlines the woes and comforts of Valentine’s Day for the average Valentine’s Day sceptic

I have never met anyone who is wholly unaffected by Valentine’s Day. There is one half that eagerly awaits this day while the other half absolutely resents it to the point of indignation. In all honesty, up until writing this article, I had always been a member of the latter gang.

Most single people secretly tend to look forward to this day as much as couples do ( trust me, I know!). A survey conducted on over 15,000 Hinge users suggested that the majority of Gen Z users are actually looking for something more “traditional”: love. Which, ironically, is a word a lot of us claim to hate. I can make a fairly confident prediction that those who scorn Valentine’s Day will be reading this article with more intrigue than others.

I am, by no means, Cupid telling you how to find your soulmate or how to find a date this Valentine’s Day, but it can be enriching to learn about the history of the day. It is the one day of the entire year that we could all spread a little love. After all, the world needs that right now!

Saint Valentine still represents hope, bravery and romanticism”

Saint Valentine, as we know, is connected to Valentine’s Day. Given that the Catholic church recognised three different Saint Valentines, the custom has three distinctive backstories. According to a tale, Claudius II, the Roman Emperor, forbade young men from getting married because he thought unmarried men were better soldiers than married ones. Valentine, a priest, defied the law by surreptitiously marrying young lovers. Unfortunately, he was imprisoned and then beheaded for disobeying the emperor. The other legend suggests that an imprisoned Valentine wrote his last letter to a girl he fell in love with and signed the letter with the much-used expression “from your Valentine.” According to a lesser-known legend, Valentine may have been killed trying to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. While these stories don’t have the happiest endings, Saint Valentine still represents hope, bravery and romanticism.

Furthermore, some people also believe that Valentine’s Day was not created to honour Saint Valentine, but to paganise Lupercalia. It was a festival celebrated in the middle of February to honour Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. The celebration then became connected to love as the result of a tradition. Bachelors would select a single woman’s name from an urn, with whom they would then be matched for an entire year: basically a super long blind date, or a free trial. I barely manage to complete free trials for gym memberships, so honestly, even I do not find this appealing, but we have plenty of stories to choose from so don’t lose hope yet.

Valentine’s Day is also celebrated because February is the mating month for birds. Love is literally in the air!”

If you are a logic driven individual and refuse to be swayed by these tragedies, then I am here to tell you that Valentine’s Day is also celebrated because February is the mating month for birds. Love is literally in the air!

So why not spread some love this Valentines day? My advice to you would be that if you have a little crush on someone, stop overthinking it and making excuses to hate this day. Be brave and make your move! I am aware that admitting your feelings can be intimidating, especially as a woman. For quite a while, society upheld the notion that men should proclaim their feelings for women first and not the other way around. This concept, unfortunately, is still prevalent in many parts of the world but not in Japan. In Japan, receiving gifts from women is quite a conventional concept. According to the ancient Japanese text, Kojiki, the sun goddess Amaterasu, the highest Shinto deity in Shinto mythology, is said to have given her grandson Ninigi-no-mikoto three pieces of royal regalia: Yasuka curved beads, a mirror, and the Kusanagi sword. This displays how the tradition of female gift-giving has transcended into Japanese culture.

In 1936, Morozoff Ltd., a confectionary company, introduced Valentine’s Day to Japan for foreign residents living in Kobe. Valentine’s Day became a part of Japanese customs. There were just a few tweaks to the celebration. As mythology suggests, it is usually the women who give the gifts. Interestingly, celebrating Galentine’s Day may be a relatively modern concept in other parts of the world, but not in Japan. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is not about celebrating your partner, but about appreciating all of your loved ones. While the partners receive Honmei Choco, “true feelings” chocolates, the friend from the HR department gets Giri Choco or obligatory chocolates. The girls get Tomo chocolates or friend chocolates. In my opinion, your girlfriends deserve the most amount of chocolates for supporting you.

The appreciation on Valentine’s Day in Japan may sound like it is one-sided considering it is only the women who show their affection, but fortunately, their love is not unrequited. White Day (14th March) is the day that partners reciprocate this gesture of gift giving and appreciation with deeper affection referred to as Sambai Kaeshi (threefold reciprocation).

“Your vehement reason to dislike this day because you see red hearts or chocolates everywhere is not always the most valid response”

For many people, Valentine’s Day, whether it be in Japan or Ireland, is just a commercial construct. Companies make use of Valentine’s Day as a pretext to promote their products, ensuring that the occasion remains relevant. Nonetheless, your vehement reason to dislike this day because you see red hearts or chocolates everywhere is not always the most valid response. One does not necessarily have to be in a committed relationship to celebrate the day. You could just appreciate the amazing people in your life! Besides, you could always be sad before or after eating chocolates but not while eating them! Go out and buy some chocolates or bake some warm brownies and if you are not doting on anyone else, then appreciate yourself that day. You’re doing great. We all need to hear that once in a while. While Valentine’s Day has passed for this year, don’t worry – it will come around again and hopefully you’ll remember this then.