I have a gripe with Valentine’s Day (and no it’s not the ideal behind it, because there’s something to be said for a day devoted to love). It’s the fact that last year’s Valentine’s Day related sales rang in at $17.6 billion. From it’s origins as an ancient Roman flog-fest to Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakesphere setting Valentine’s Day onto it’s current path, the holiday has evolved a lot over centuries. Meant originally as a Catholic church celebration of martyrs named St. Valentine, it’s hard to imagine how it turned into a holiday compelling men to buy cards that say the words they can’t (or rather won’t try to) and spend lots of money on jewelry/chocolates/flowers that die two days later/impossible dinner reservations/etc. It’s a holiday of consumerism at it’s finest.

There’s lots of things that have happened on February 14th throughout history that we could easily decide to celebrate instead. Here’s a compacted list of notable occurrences:

  • 1076 – Pope Gregory VII excommunicates Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor.
  • 1779 – James Cook is killed by Native Hawaiians near Kealakekua on the Island of Hawaii.
  • 1859 – Oregon is admitted as the 33rd U.S. state.
  • 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell applies for a patent for the telephone, as does Elisha Gray.
  • 1899 – Voting machines are approved by the U.S. Congress for use in federal elections.
  • 1929 – Saint Valentine’s Day massacre: Seven people, six of them gangster rivals of Al Capone‘s gang, are murdered in Chicago, Illinois.
  • 1951  – The nickname of the “St. Valentine’s Day massacre” has also been used to refer to the sixth, and final match-up, between boxers Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta, because it took place on Valentine’s Day in 1951, and because of the beating that LaMotta took, which caused the fight to be stopped in the 13th round.

Just a few suggestions for other celebrations we could execute on February 14th each year. I’ll leave you with the words of Bill Shakesphere (via Ophelia) who helped catapult St. Valentine’s Day into what it is now known:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5