Perhaps more than any other holiday, Valentine’s Day is either loved or loathed. You can’t have both. Single and lonely, you might find February 14 a day worth skipping. In love or swooning, this is probably a day worthy of pining and planning.
One thing about this holiday always strikes me as hilarious. And that is...how did we get here? Let me take you back to ancient Rome and the not very romantic origins of our Valentine’s Day. Pagan Romans celebrated Lupercalia February 13-15 (yes, this celebration is related). Men, drunk and naked, would sacrifice a dog and goat and then beat young women with the hides. The underlying idea was that this would make women fertile. These romantic Romans would then pick a woman’s name from a jar and proceed to spend the time “coupled.”
Fast forward two hundred years and you can thank Emperor Claudius ll of the third century for contributing to the modern name of this day of love. He executed two men named Valentine on February 14 of different years. One of them fell in love with his prisoner’s daughter and slipped her a note from “Your Valentine.” The Catholic Church pronounced these men martyrs and the name and the day stuck.
Toggle forward a few hundred more years when Pope Gelasius l combined Lupercalia and Valentine’s Day to expel any pagan ritual. What began as drunken debauchery and sex, now had clothes on it. Chaucer and Shakespeare made the day even sweeter. Handmade paper cards became a common every day ritual in the Middle Ages.
But Valentine’s Day as we know it? Swing to the United States when in 1913 Hallmark cards began the mass printing of Valentine’s cards. The day hasn’t been the same since. Now we break the bank on chocolate, flowers and jewelry.
Which brings me back to love and to you. Perhaps the most important person to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” to is you. That’s right, you. High time to start celebrating yourself, what makes you special, and why you can be your own best Valentine. Maybe this holiday should be a mid-winter break to love your fellow neighbor, perform a random act of kindness, and be good to yourself.