Shakespeare "A heart to love and in that heart Courage, to make love known", is that what Valentine's Day is all about? A day to place a valentine on the desk of the little girl on the back row carefully signed with a row of x's and o's? A day to buy a rose and place at the locker of the girl you have never dared ask out? A tray full of heart shaped pancakes delivered in bed or a carefully crafted text or tweet? Or perhaps is it a day to find the courage to do something more.
I don't know and after spending a little time on facebook, twitter and instagram I realized that I really have no idea how Valentine's Day came to be or what it was originally meant to be.
Apparently Valentine's Day has been around for a very long time. The oldest known Valentine written in English was written in 1477, but the first Valentine's Day was in 496! It is thought to have originated as part of a Roman festival that was celebrated in the middle of February to usher in Spring. At this festival boys drew girls names from a box and then they would be boyfriend and girlfriend for the festival. Sometimes they would end up getting married.
Later on the Church wanted to turn this festival into a Christian celebration and so they gave it the name of Saint Valentine. Now the story really gets good. Saint Valentine was a priest from Rome. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage because he thought it made bad soldiers. St Valentine thought this was unfair and so he broke the rules and arranged secret marriages. When Claudius found out he sent St Valentine to jail and sentenced him to death. In jail St Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter and when taken to be killed on February 14 he sent her a love letter signed Your Valentine. Surely a story worthy of a movie, right?
So how over the centuries did such a sweet story become what it has become today. According to the National Retail Association 18 billion dollars will be spent on Valentine's Day. A drop in the bucket they claim compared to other holidays, but has that drop in the bucket changed something meant to be sweet and heartfelt into something that is not? Has it become another money pit, an obligation, a headache, another tiresome thing to add to your list of things you have to do. Has it become another moment when someone feels excluded, hurt, different, less than, overwhelmed, stressed, sad, alone, forgotten, ect.
Oh man, don't get me wrong, I am happily married and already have a date with my husband for Valentine's Day. But I can't help but reflect on those who don't. At our local high school there has been a long standing fundraising tradition of selling different colored carnations for the students to give to others on Valentine's Day. Each color stands for something. " I have a crush on you"," I love you", "You are awesome". Seems harmless enough right? But how disheartening at the end of the day to see one girl overloaded with flowers as she leaves the school and another going home empty handed. Maybe a less public way of proclaiming your love would be more appropriate. And what about the young husband that is already struggling to pay the bills, just recovering from Christmas, working overtime,tired, stressed and doing his best, who puts money on an already overused credit card to buy his wife a dozen roses when what she really wants is more money for groceries and new pants for the kids. And finally to to heart of this blog, what about the school Valentine's party that becomes a food allergy moms worst nightmare. The treats that are supposed to be safe but aren't, the mother who is upset because she has to worry about safe treats for your child and the posts that start showing up on social media about how your child's food allergy is your problem not theirs. Whoa! Sorry, did I just do a little venting there. It seems that for some Valentine's Day is not all about love.
Anyway, back to my original premise, is Valentine's Day a day to find the courage to make love known. I hope so, but only love that doesn't hurt, love that doesn't cost money, love that is all inclusive and love that can best be expressed in a heartfelt handwritten letter. I hope you have a Happy Valentine's Day but if you aren't maybe you could pick up a pen and make someone else's day one they will remember. Doing that is bound to bring a smile to your face...and to St Valentine's.