Happy Valentine’s Day! I used to absolutely hate Valentine’s Day (especially when I was in a relationship). I’d wear black in protest, roll my eyes at the flowers and hearts, and scoff at ‘romantic plans’.
The pressure to make the day special made me feel like I couldn’t live up to that expectation, so I wouldn’t even try. It was easier to say ‘I hate Valentine’s Day’ than to try and put in effort and have it backfire. Low expectations= high chance of getting what you expect. Now that I’ve been single for awhile (and gotten older), I find myself enjoying Valentine’s Day more. I’ve re-framed my view, and think of it less as a spectacle-required holiday, and more a chance to indulge free from guilt. And, boy oh boy, do I love to indulge! I like having a day to reach out to people I care about, and let them know they matter to me. It’s all too easy to overlook the people in your life. So, I plan to text and call my friends and family, and finish my evening by popping some bubbly, eating chocolate, taking a bath and watching one of my favorite romantic movies (currently deciding between Shakespeare in Love, 10 Things I Hate About You, Romeo + Juliet, or Pride & Prejudice).
So why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day? Where did the roots of this day even come from?
THE LEGEND, THE MYTH, THE SAINT
St. Valentine is a bit of a mystery. There have been 3 different people named Valentine who have been considered Saints by the Catholic Church (all were martyred). Some think the St. Valentine was a priest who defied his Emperor, and married people in secret after the Roman Emperor banned marriage because he thought single men were better soldiers. He was killed for his trouble. Others contend Valentine rescued Christians from Roman prisons, and was arrested. While under arrest he fell in love with his jailers daughter, and wrote her a note signed ‘From Your Valentine’.
Basically, we have no idea who Valentine was, but we do know that similar to other major holidays, the Catholic Church aligned the date with an existing pagan festival.
THE PAGANS KNOW HOW TO PARTY
Lupercalia was a pagan festival held in mid-February. Lupercalia was a fertility festival honoring the Roman God of Agriculture, and the founding of Rome. The basics of the festival involved sacrificing a goat and a dog, then running through the streets lightly slapping women and fields with rags soaked in blood. The blood slapping would naturally result in fertile women and fertile fields. The festival would conclude with the young women putting their names in an urn, and young men choosing a name. Often this lead to marriage. Sounds like a typical day…
As these things go, Catholicism started taking over, and Lupercalia was outlawed and replaced, in the 5th century, with St. Valentines Day.
ROMANCE IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Over time, the day became more an more associated with romance. The Middle Ages solidified St. Valentines Day with love as the giving of Valentine’s became standard practice. You needed something to distract you from the dismal living conditions, short life spans, and rampant disease after all…
And that brings us to today! I hope you enjoyed that history lesson, and I hope you enjoy your Valentine’s Day, in whatever way you chose to celebrate it.