Valentine’s Day gift cards and e-gifts are the best way to go this year, at least according to Forbes. E-gifting is especially nice because the recipient can change the size, color and other details of the gift, before it is ever shipped with a feature called Loop. With a gift card the beloved can choose her own gifts. In another trend, Americans are spending a lot less, on average, for Valentine’s Day gifts. Just last year the average was around $300 each, but this year’s expected spending is $212 for the average gift. Valentine’s Day gift cards have a lot of advantages, in flexibility, but they aren’t very romantic and that’s what Valentine’s Day has always been about right? While gift cards and e-gifting may seem pretty impersonal to some, taking a closer look at history, might put this modern day gift travesty into perspective.
Valentine’s Day gift cards are a far cry from traditional, but perhaps they do beat the old pagan celebration of Lupercalia that slowly evolved into Valentine’s Day. This ancient fertility ritual probably predates Rome, and according to NPR, the earliest forms of the ritual involved women lining up, naked, to get beaten with a bloody dog skin recently ripped from poor Fido. As if the family dog wasn’t enough of a sacrifice, they also killed a goat, so they’d have a bloody fur for both hands.
Long before Valentine’s Day gift cards, jewelry and chocolates, women actually wanted to be beaten with fresh, bloody animal hides, because they believed it would make them more fertile. Once the women were covered in welts and dog blood, men would draw names to see which man would spend the night with which woman. While the dogs’ blood supposedly made the women fertile, their copulation with the men of their village would make the land fertile and the resources abundant.
See, the Valentine’s Day gift card and e-gifting are sounding better all the time, right?
If you are still not convinced, ask your dog. Valentine’s Day received its name from St. Valentine, martyred by Roman Emperor Claudius II. The story is a bit confusing because there were two men named Valentine executed for their faith, on February 14 of different years during the third century. In the fifth century, St. Valentine’s Day and the traditions of Lupercalia were combined by the church. They removed the naughtier elements of the ancient ritual, including all nudity. They did allow a mock ritual to continue, though. Valentine’s Day gifts and cards began to evolve during the Middle Ages, these strange rituals started to transform into the traditions we have enjoyed for many centuries. People made cards, gifts and held festivities around Valentine’s Day. These traditions were very charming, romantic and sentimental. Today, people still make their own cards, and for some couples this is a better solution than spending a lot of money.
Valentine’s Day gifts were well on their way of evolving into the modern dream of cards, jewelry and chocolates. However, a dark side of Valentines arose again around 1800. The vinegar Valentine became a popular way to turn away a suitor or tell off anyone who had annoyed you during the previous year. These cards featured a rude image and a short message describing the recipient in a negative light. These were the forerunner of the modern day gag card, but in those days they were not so humorous and just crudely insulting as explained in The Fiscal Times. By 1850 half of all Valentine’s Day cards were of the vinegar variety.
This year, Valentine’s Day gifts and cards are changing again, according to The Fiscal Times. People are losing interest in the holiday, and sales around the day are down. Americans have less time to spend shopping, and less disposable income to spend on holidays. Shopping decisions have become more difficult, as well. Couples may want nicer things than they can afford. Valentine’s Day with gifts and cards may be strange in its origin, but love is worth celebrating, though it need not cost so much or be confined to just one day.
[Image via Sveta Orlova/Shutterstock]