February 14th is a day for love and romance. People buy cards, flowers, and candy; couples dress up and go out to eat at a fabulous restaurant, or prepare a quiet, special meal at home. Roses go from $12.99 a dozen to $2.5 billion dollars a dozen, and that’s if you can find them. Many marriage proposals happen on Valentine’s Day. It’s probably because they could afford the ring better than they could afford the roses.
For little kids still in school, it’s all about candy conversation hearts and parties and red punch. Kids are taught how to make a Valentine’s Day box to hold all of their valentines. They decorate it at home with lace paper in red, pink, and white, and of course lots and lots of hearts, then bring it to school to collect. Even at a young age, kids choose what valentine to give each other verrrry carefully. One doesn’t want to give another the wrong impression.
Frankly, Valentine’s Day is a fun, romantic, cheerful, lovey-dovey holiday. Was it always this way?
It was not.
Research suggests that the faint origins of Valentine’s Day as we know it now were actually extremely barbaric. In the year 300, Romans would celebrate from February 13 until February 15th with a gala called Lupercalia, a fertility festival celebrated with feasting, animal sacrifice, and rather unconventional matchmaking. Suffice it to say the women got the exact opposite of hearts, flowers, and romance--an unusual start to what is now known as the day that celebrates love.
Also during that time period two different Catholic men with the surname Valentine were put to death within a few years of each other, but both on February 14th, for ministering to others. One of the Valentine men used his saintly powers of healing to cure his own jailor’s daughter who was blind, giving her back her sight. Legend has it that he may have even been in love with her. It is said that right before his execution on February 14th, he slipped a note to her that ended with the words, “From your Valentine.” (Romantic, to be sure, but a little bit of a “Top Em Charlie”, don’t you think?)
In time, Catholics grew tired of the pagan holiday, generously renamed it after St. I-can’t-catch-a-break Valentine, and cemented the date as February 14th.
Years later, writers such as Shakespeare romanticized the holiday, penning odes to love and romance. To this day, many poems or love notes are written to our special loves, with a little help from Cupid. Or Cupid’s good friend, Tequila.
Love is big business, and Valentine’s Day is a very commercial holiday. Millions of dollars will be spent by people showing their love with the trademarks of the day: chocolate, cards, flowers, balloons and yes, marriage proposals…but not necessarily at the same time, because that can end badly.
Happy Valentine’s Day!