After last week’s column was published, I received quite a few emails from readers saying I forgot about Valentine’s Day. Folks, I didn’t forget. I just didn’t think it fit the subject: quirky or obsolete observances associated with this month. After all, unlike Groundhog Day, Sadie Hawkins Day and Lincoln’s Birthday, the 14th of February is a red-letter day that everyone recognizes, whether or not they choose to celebrate it.
According to the Greeting Card Association, Valentine’s Day is the second-biggest card-giving occasion of the year, behind Christmas. The day after Valentine’s Day, Feb. 15, is SAD, or Singles Awareness Day. Nobody sends cards for SAD.
Here’s the SAD explanation, from the website singlesawareness.com:
“In response to the huge push by retailers for us to buy all of their candy, flowers and greeting cards, February 15 has been declared Singles Awareness Day! . . . Sure, some people would prefer to have their February celebration on Feb. 14, but the rest of us appreciate the break from the commercialism. . . . The awareness day was established by single people who were just sick of feeling left out on Valentine’s Day, and support of the day is growing every year.
Suggested activities for this day are sending yourself flowers, planning parties for other singles to mix and meet and to participate in some sort of singles’ event. This is especially recommended if you don’t WANT to be single. Of course, for those who kind of like being single it’s a blessing and a reason to have some fun!”
While I appreciate the sentiment, it seems to me that sending flowers to yourself contradicts SAD’s stand on commercialism. The website does offer other suggestions, though, including volunteering for the day, traveling, going to the movies, anything that makes you feel good and perhaps distracts you from loneliness.
But I digress. Back to the big day, when — according to the National Retail Federation — Americans will spend some $20 billion on their sweethearts. You read that right, 20 BILLION, much of it on sweets.
A survey by the National Confectioners Association found that chocolates make up at least 75 percent of Valentine candy sales. The NCA says that caramels are the most popular items in those heart-shaped boxes, followed by chocolate-covered nuts, chocolate-filled, cream-filled and coconut. Cherry cordials, my weakness, didn’t make the favorites list. The first box of Valentine chocolates was introduced in 1868 by Richard Cadbury.
Many of the symbols we associate with Valentine’s Day originated with the ancient Romans, including Cupid, the god of love. The Romans actually adopted the arrow-wielding cherub from Greek mythology, where he was known as Eros, the son of Aphrodite. The mischievous Eros/Cupid shot arrows at both gods and mortals, using gold-tipped missiles to ignite passion and desire, and lead-tipped ones to achieve the opposite effect. Cupid’s mother was Venus, the Roman goddess of love, but scholars disagree on the identity of his father. Most versions of the myth attribute paternity to Mars, the god of war, which would explain Cupid’s penchant for sharp weapons.
According to History.com, the two most popular theories about the origin of Valentine’s Day also come from the Romans. One involves Emperor Claudius II, who, while building his army, outlawed marriage for young men because he believed that single men made better soldiers. The sympathetic St. Valentine performed secret marriages in defiance of the ban and Claudius had the priest executed on Feb. 14.
The second theory stems from Lupercalia, a rowdy Roman festival where young men stripped naked and ran around town spanking people, supposedly to chase away evil spirits and ensure health and fertility for all. Originally held for three days, Feb. 13 through 15, Lupercalia is now commemorated on Feb. 15.
Someone should tell the folks at singlesawareness.com.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.