It turns out Valentine’s Day backlash has been happening for almost 200 years
It’s almost Valentine’s Day! Can’t you feel the love in the air? If you can’t, and you find yourself grumbling in annoyance about the fact that we spend billions of dollars on lovey-dovey cards and chocolates every year, you’re certainly not alone. Look around, and you may notice that for every person who is the epitome of a heart-eyed emoji on Valentine’s Day, there’s someone who totally can’t stand the commercialism of the holiday. But the backlash surrounding Valentine’s Day isn’t a new thing — in fact, it can be traced back to almost 200 years ago.
TIME recently did a deep-dive into the history of the holiday, explaining that although many believe Valentine’s Day was invented just to get people buying stuff from Hallmark, it’s not so, and it’s been a romantic holiday for over 600 years. Of course, this is something any Shakespeare buff would know, as Valentine’s Day is referenced in Hamlet, when Ophelia sings, “Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.”
However, when the practice of selling Valentine’s became popular in the 1840s, people started to complain about the forced feelings of the holiday.
“There was a time when Valentine’s Day meant something,” reads an 1847 New York Daily Tribune article. “Then it was a business of real lovers and there was sweetness under its delicate shy disguise. Good [graces]! that’s gone long ago. Now nobody makes more than a joke of it… We hate this modern degeneracy, this miscellaneous and business fashion. Send a Valentine by the penny post too? Bah! Give us the sweet old days when there was a mystery about it.” Obviously, that didn’t stop Valentine’s Day from getting bigger and bigger, with sweethearts buying each other trinkets and gifts.
So although it’s estimated that we’ll be spending about $19.7 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, no, it’s not a holiday created by Hallmark, and no, hating on Valentine’s Day isn’t some new trend. But if you’re not a fan of the holiday, at least take some comfort in knowing that some of our ancestors *totally* agreed with you.