When I was six, everyone in my grade school class wrote Valentine’s Day cards, and passed them out to every other student in class. Thus I was indoctrinated into a long and mysterious tradition. Every year, millions of people send cards, flowers, candies, and all manner of red and slinky gifts. But why? What truths lie beneath this love-filled holiday? What do the symbols of the heart, and the child-like cupid shooting arrows really mean? Why is everything red? Why so much candy? What secrets does Valentine’s Day hold?
Let us begin with the month of February. February gets its name from Juno Februa, goddess of the febris (fever) of love. This fever is an animalistic abandon, devoid of human reason. It is a violent lust.
Cupid, the son of Venus (Eros and Aphrodite respectively in Greek), is typically pictured as an innocent cherub, lobbing tiny arrows which inflict our hearts with love. Nothing could be further from the truth. While there are some who would equate anything long and slender, regardless of purpose, with a penis, and while they see any one thing entering another thing as an act of sexual congress, we cannot deny that the real result of an arrow through the heart would be death.
Red is the color of blood. I don’t think I need to say more on the subject.
The heart, though it has been stylized and never resembled an actual heart, is probably the most gruesome aspect of Valentine’s Day. Sending hearts to people with words of affection inscribed upon them inspires images of severe psychosis. This was depicted most graphically in the 1981 teen slasher movie “My Bloody Valentine”. But why the heart? In both Poetry and Prose, the heart has long been the organ of cherished secrets, and private thoughts. To deliver a heart to another is to expose secrets, to bring the hidden to light, to reveal some private thought.
Candy is perhaps the most complex aspect of Valentine’s Day. It can come in any size shape or flavor, except on this particular holiday, when it must either be heart-shaped, or covered with chocolate (ignore the erotic candies, which don’t really fit the holiday motif). Encasing or burying something in chocolate is very literally symbolic of entombment. Chocolate is even the color of earth. Thus encased in their chocolate tombs, the candies are indistinguishable, and as we all have experienced, only a map can prevent the unfortunate bite of a hated candy. The mixed chocolate box taunts us, nay it dares us to try to find the prized golden caramel.
In conclusion, we have what appears to be a gruesome ancient tale. A jilted lover murders his competition, sends the heart to the object of his affections with professions of his love carved insanely upon it, buries the body, and defies anyone to prove the competition is even dead. The lack of scientific methods and knowledge prevented any further investigation into the matter. The woman probably lived out her short but miserable life with this psychotic monster, having lost all hope for the return of her true love. And we mock her pain every year as we celebrate these tragic events with gruesome precision.