Vol. 1, Ep. 8 "Filthy Rich" (2008)


A Commercial for Love: Valentine’s Day (Episode 7)

Valentine of Rome, who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity, died on February 14, 269 A.D. The Roman holiday Lupercalia and the Festival of Juno, devoted to fertility and purity, were celebrated in mid-February. In 1382 Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem (to honor the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia) including the lines: “For this was sent on Valentines Day/When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” In Shakespeare's Hamlet (1600-1601), the tragic Ophelia mentions that “Tomorrow is Valentine's Day." 

Nevertheless, the traditional U.S. holiday originated with a commercial effort. In 1847, the first mass-produced valentines—made of embossed paper lace—were produced and sold by Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts. Howland was inspired by a decorated note she had received from a European lover. Luckily, her father owned and operated a large stationery store and her romantic whim soon turned profitable. Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary."

The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. In the second half of the twentieth century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts, usually from a man to a woman. Expensive roses... expensive chocolates... and, in the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as an occasion for giving jewelry.

As every holiday needs a magical mascot, Valentine's Day boasts the winged cherub Cupid. In Roman mythology, Cupid is the god of erotic love and sex. Throughout ancient mythological writing, Cupid is described as a lively youth known for riotous debauchery, pranks and spreading love. It is said that if Cupid shoots you with his arrow you will soon find your true love.

  • A recent survey shows that 77% of Americans believe they have experienced true love.
  • The same survey shows that 45% of Americans believe they married their true love.
  • The U.S. marriage rate has been incrementally dropping every year since the late 1990's.
  • The U.S. divorce rate has been incrementally dropping every year since the late 1970's
  • 80% of Americans who have gotten divorced have subsequently re-married.