Marked by red, chocolate, wine and heart-shaped pizzas with pepperoni that spells out “I love you”, February is the month of love. It is also the month that conjures up thoughts of how much someone is loved, who they love, and where they fit in the Valentine’s Day Love Landscape. The results of which can range from utter joy to hopelessness. Just yesterday a married man who I know said with absolute disgust, “I hate Valentine’s Day.” and then he said it again – twice more.
Although third-century archives do not include enough verifying details to the origin of “the” Saint Valentine, researchers know that there were many Valentines, possibly up to twenty-four. Of those, at least one, if not two or three Catholic Valentines (a.k.a. Valentinus) were executed by Roman nobility on the date of February 14th. There are various Valentine and February stories.
According to historians, one Valentine spoke of converting Pagans to Christians. An aristocrat named Asterius agreed to convert if Valentine could heal his blind foster child. Father Valentine prayed for her and her blindness was healed. The entire family converted. When Emperor Gothicus heard this story, he had them all executed. Valentine was the only one beheaded. Another Valentine defied Emperor Claudius II’s order that no young man could marry. The Emperor believed that emotionally unattached soldiers were better than those married or betrothed. Valentine was executed for violating this decree. Or he may have been executed for helping Christians to escape treacherous Roman prisons. One legend says that he sent a love note to the jailer’s daughter who visited him, signing it “From your Valentine”. Sounds like a reach to create roots for our $19.6 billion Valentine’s Day market (National Retail Federation, 2018). Beyond the Valentines, on the ides of February, there was the Pagan celebration of Lupercalia, which celebrated fertility to honour Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture and Roman founders Romulus and Remus. Then there was author Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote “The Canterbury Tales”, between 1387 and 1400, where he assigned the Feast of St. Valentinus to the mating of birds. Love is in the air; bird love.
Valentine’s Day commemorates the approximate A.D. 270 death or burial of Saint Valentine. Each of the martyred Valentines dedicated their lives to what they believed and faced adversity because of what they believed was right. They were concerned with the long-term well-being of others. These were people who felt accountable, had strength of character, were sympathetic and heroic. They are role models that embody dedication, consideration and compassion.
It appears that we have missed the boat in the development of this holiday. This is not solely about love between two people, or 20 children in a classroom armed with 20 pre-cut cards. This is not about religion. It’s about honouring those who decided that they could make a difference. Valentine’s Day is a day to recall, celebrate and possibly follow the lead of considerate people.
No matter when something good occurs, big or small, recognition feels good. A card, a text, a celebratory meal or a box of chocolates makes a heart feel good, especially when you say, “Happy Valentine’s Day”.