Love is in the air and cupid is off on a wild tangent. I hear so many decry that Valentine’s Day is just a commercial blunder designed to fill the greedy pockets of hungry retailers. And while seeing heart-filled aisles appear in late December irritates me, I believe that Valentine’s Day extends to much more than star-crossed lovers. How can celebrating love on any level equate to a simple advertising ploy?
There are many legends of Saint Valentine. The most recognized is far from a romantic tale. It is said that under the reign of Emperor Claudius II in third-century Rome, Claudius outlawed marriage because he believed single men made better soldiers. Without familial distractions, men would stay focused on the business of war. Defying the Emperor’s law, an earnest priest named Valentine secretly continued to marry young lovers. Once discovered, he was arrested and sentenced to death. While jailed, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and penned a letter to her signed “from Your Valentine.” He met his fate in the guillotine on February 14, 270 AD. And so, it would seem, we celebrate a monstrous beheading. How romantic…
However, with all fairness to love and lust, there is no record of Valentine’s Day celebrations until about 1380 when medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer took liberties with history and created fictitious poetic characters he represented as real. He refers to February 14 as the day birds, and humans, come together to find a mate. He may very well have invented the notorious day of love. It was not until 1537 that England’s King Henry VII declared it St. Valentine’s Day.
The argument here is why do we need historic events to declare love? At the same time, why must we choose dollar signs to validate a proclamation of true love? The unlikely romance of a pious priest declaring his devotion on the eve of his doom should encourage everyone to voice affections to whoever brightens their lives. Baubles, candy, flowers, or extravagant excursions should not be the baseline in authenticating love.
It has been a long time since a Happy Heart’s Day has brightened my dreary February, but I was not immune to its power in my youth. I remember, quite vividly, relaying my disappointment one Valentine’s Day that every woman in my workplace received beautiful floral bouquets but me. My soul mate could only respond with a blank stare. One month later, however, on my March birthday, I received a stunning bouquet of roses with a card that simply read, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” I laughed hysterically but realized in an instant that timing does not matter – only loving intent.
So, pitch the silly boycott out the window. Resist declaring that you will not bow to the commercialized merchandising whims of corporate mongers and throw love to the wolves. Use this magical holiday as a chance to shine a loving light on those who brighten your life. It does not need to involve large cash purchases or even small meaningless gifts. Speak directly into the eyes of your own personal saviors who have paved an extraordinary path to any manifestation of passion – friends, lovers, family, pets, neighbors, veterans, healthcare workers - anyone who deserves to feel loved every day. I assure you; I will reward my pup for the love he bestows with extra belly rubs today. It will not cost me a penny and will be far more precious.
Happy Valentine’s Day devoted readers! Hearts and flowers to you and yours. Try to avoid the guillotine!