Volume 96, Issue 77
Friday, February 14, 2003

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Cupid's arrows versus commercialism

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

Even if the gold-embossed poetry inside the cards you will (or won't) get this year are devoid of deeper meaning, Valentine's Day, for many, has its fair share.

With today being Valentine's Day, The Gazette asked several Western professors just what the day means to us – as individuals and as a culture alike.

Valentine's Day is associated with the Catholic Saint Valentine, who was martyred near Rome one Feb. 14 in the third century, explained James Schmeiser, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at King's College.

"The middle of February was [at the time] associated with the mating patterns of birds," he said, adding the concept of a martyr's death out of religious love and the more light-hearted variety of love eventually fused into St. Valentine's Day.

"Red is actually the colour associated with martyrdom, passion and blood," Schmeiser added, describing the relation between Valentine hearts to the "sacred heart of Jesus" as one of the most important manifestations of love in the Christian faith.

"Hearts are pierced by cupid; [the victims are] wounded, by letting another person in, and the barb leads back to the person who fired it," he said, explaining the importance of Cupid to the Valentine tradition.

Anthropology professor Regna Darnell explained why religious and pagan mythological conventions are still significant today.

"Our society is one in which people don't express their feelings and emotions very well, so we ritualize a chance to do it once a year," Darnell said.

"[Valentine's Day] is quite significant; there's a real value in romantic or erotic love. It's a beginning kind of love – no substitute for love – but it's when people wake up and realize that other people do matter."

Carole Farber, professor of media, information and technoculture disagreed. "Valentine's day, per se, is the creation of a commercial culture, invented by Hallmark to sell more cards. It's not about the romance of [Valentine's Day], but how you package that romance in candy, cards and other commodities."

While it is important to acknowledge the criticisms of the day, Schmeiser said that commercialization does not prove Valentine's Day is all bad.

"We have to be realistic – in many cases it's true [that Valentine's Day is too commercial]. But we have to try not to get sucked in, and get back to a more basic level and express love more creatively," he said.

Schmeiser added that there must be something good about this holiday. "If there wasn't, you couldn't sell it. The reality is important, [even though] we can abuse it."

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2002 THE GAZETTE