Tony Guadagnino is a marketing consultant. Located in New Jersey, his clients are based across the country, focusing on social media to build their presence on the internet. He studied creative writing in college and is currently working on his first novel on the subject of bullying. He lives with his partner Mark.
Happy Valentine’s Day — “the most romantic day of the year.” To some, it’s all about the candy, the flowers, the expensive dinner, and whatever sparkling jewelry their significant other buys. Beneath the gift-giving, card-sending, pagan traditions, does anyone know how the holiday really began?
The origins of Valentine’s Day started with a Roman festival called Lupercalia, held in February to honor Juno, the Goddess of Fertility, and to celebrate the oncoming of spring. The Romans considered this time to be a time of love, renewal, and purity, and they performed many fertility rituals during the festival, such as the naked Roman men striking the women, believing they would become fertile. Furthermore, Romans would draw names out of an urn, their version of “matchmaking.” Couples, resulting in many marriages, were formed by the names drawn.
The name Valentine’s Day was derived from St. Valentine, a third-century priest who had performed secret weddings, and eventually killed (and martyred) on the magical date of February 14, 270.
As with most holiday traditions, Valentine’s Day has completely transformed into modern society to become a festival of spending hundreds of dollars for the one you love, driven by guilt (who wants to be in the doghouse?). The U. S. Greeting Card Association estimates that over 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sold every year, and worldwide, over $14 billion is spent each year on Valentine’s Day-related gifts. Breaking the bank has become the way contemporary people are forced to show their love for one another.
However, there is a problem with all of the propaganda of the “Love” holiday – where do the LGBT people stand when it comes to Happy Valentine’s Day? Despite the last several years of increasing LGBT visibility, the community still remains largely missing from traditional media when it comes to finding images and representations of themselves as romantic and loving couples. Valentine’s Day isn’t an exception to this rule.
Back in the 1990s, when I first came out, the only man-for-man Valentine’s Day cards that I could find were in specialty stores whose clientele was specifically driven toward the gay community. Two decades later, the world hasn’t changed much.
Hallmark, the most well-known Greeting Card Company on the planet, introduced their first “Man-for-Man” and “Woman-for-Woman” Valentine’s Day cards nine years ago. But, there were only three cards for men-men and three cards for women-women. If you didn’t like their choice of cards, your alternative was to buy one of the generic cards underneath the category LOVE, with either intertwined flower stems or rows of red and pink flowers pictured on the cover. It wasn’t until 2016 that Hallmark (finally) began running commercials that featured same-sex couples.
We’ve come a long way, but we still have a lot more work to do. The internet has made it a lot easier for us to order gay-themed Valentine’s gifts, but we know we’ve truly been accepted when we visit our local store to buy two stuffed male bunny rabbits holding hands, or we find the section of Valentine cards made for our community. That day will come!
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!