Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. In the past, it has been a great day for me simply because I enjoy seeing couples who are in love getting to spend a day celebrating their relationship with one another. But this year, everything about Valentine’s Day changed for me, and I love it even more than I did before.
Before I get into my own personal opinions, I want to take a look at the history of Valentine’s Day. I think it’s important to understand why we celebrate the things that we do. How much less fun would Christmas be if we didn’t know it was really about the birth of Christ? How thankful would we really be on Thanksgiving without the knowledge of the hardships that our ancestors faced leading up to the first celebration of that holiday? These historic days hold so much more meaning in our lives when we can see where they began and what they can mean to us today.
The Valentine tradition begins with the story of St. Valentine. There are actually three people recognized in the Catholic faith as being called St. Valentine, and all three of them were martyred. The first legend of St. Valentine says that the Roman government was under the impression that soldiers who were single men made much better soldiers than those who were married with children. The Roman government outlawed marriage for all young men. St. Valentine did not agree with this law and, wanting love to remain in the hearts of the young men and women in their country, performed marriages in secret. There are other stories of a St. Valentine who helped enslaved Christians who were being beaten and starved to escape their captivity. There is yet another legend of a St. Valentine who was in prison and fell in love with a young girl who would come to visit him during his prison sentence. The legend goes that he sent this young woman a love letter, signing the end with “From your Valentine.” This would be the first account of this popular phrase.
The celebration of Valentine’s Day as a holiday, however, has a much less romantic and heroic background. It is believed by many that this holiday was created as a way to Christianize the season around the pagan holiday of Lupercalia. This was a holiday of fertility which was observed by an order of Roman priests. On this holiday, there would be multiple sacrifices of both goats and dogs, and the hides of the goats would be cut into strips. These men would then take the strips, run through the streets, and gently slap women with them, which was believed to make them more fertile. All the women in the town would then place their names in an urn, and the men would take turns drawing names. These pairings would put them together for the next year, and often the couples would get married.
Lupercalia was outlawed later, deemed un-Christian. Pope Gelasius declared February 14th to be Valentine’s Day in the late 5th century. The holiday was given a romantic meaning as this day was considered the last day of the birds’ mating season in most of England and France.
Thus, we still celebrate Valentine’s Day. Although the beginnings of this great tradition are somewhat shady, we can conclude that this is truly a romantic holiday. But what does that mean for us today? Does this mean that this is the only way we can celebrate it? Of course not! The reason this holiday became so special to me this year is that I finally realized that it can be about so much more than romantic love. Love can take many forms, and all of these forms should be celebrated. Love can come from friends. Love can come from family. Love most definitely comes from God. There are so many areas in our life in which we feel love. Why limit ourselves to only celebrate one type of relationship? I am truly grateful for the love I receive daily from everybody in my life. My parents, my friends, my hall mates, my professors, my siblings, my extended family, and my Creator. Yes, I am truly thankful for my boyfriend and for the way he cares about me. But I don’t want to limit myself to only this type of affection. Love should be celebrated, no matter what form it is in.
So, although Valentine’s Day is technically over, I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone around me a happy Valentine’s Day. I want to thank all of you for your love, and apologize for the love I sometimes fail to show you. Sometimes we forget how short this life truly is, and I don’t want to waste a single moment that I have. I want to use every second possible to show the love of Christ to those around me, and I pray that we will all continue to grow in the love that our Father has called us to.