Every year around this time, you have two kinds of people. The romantics and the cynics.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why people may not want to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It is that time of year where stores can triple the price of roses and chocolates and gift shops can make some extra cash off ‘I love you’ bears.
I am a firm believer that every day should be Valentine’s Day. That we should show love and give gifts not simply because there is a designated day where society expects us to do so but because we want to; because we love our partner or our friend or whomever we may consider our ‘valentine’ and we want to show them. This type of care and respect should not be limited to one single day of the year.
But take a moment to pause. Let me give you a history lesson and then I will tell you why I think it is important to celebrate Valentine’s Day, regardless.
The Pagan Festival of Lupercalia
Long before St. Valentine, the Pagans celebrated their own festival of love and fertility – Lupercalia – on a day approximated to be around the 13th-15th of February. One of the main events was the pairing of couples, where bachelors would receive the name of a single lady and they would be paired for the next year; this often ended in marriage.
The Legend of St. Valentine
Around the 2nd Century, St. Valentine was born. Not as a saint of course, that came much later. There isn’t much we know for sure about St. Valentine. One story talks of Valentine marrying Christian couples in secret after Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage to make better soldiers of his men. Other stories tell differing versions of Valentine healing a blind girl and allowing her to see again; one story talks of Valentine falling in love with this girl and giving her the first ‘Valentine’s note’ through the bars of his prison cell.
It is hard to say who St. Valentine was or what he did throughout his life. All we know for sure is that he did exist, that he was martyred and that his execution was on the 14th of February.
There isn’t much to these stories. They really could be just that; stories. But they really are an important part in Valentine’s Day history.
The Creation of Valentine’s Day
In the 5th Century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day, outlawing Lupercalia in the process.
After this declaration, the period around February 14th lost a lot of its romantic fire. Until the middle ages.
In England and France, it was believed that February 14th was the beginning of the birds’ mating season and this started to bring back the lost association of February 14th with love. It became a day where people would write letters and notes to their loved ones to remind them of their feelings. This was the start of the Valentine’s Day we are all now familiar with.
This is where we pause to reflect.
February 14th has always been associated with love. It is a day rich with stories, legends, traditions and sentimental connection, even dating back to the time before St. Valentine. Although we don’t know the true stories of St. Valentine, we know that the legends around him are enveloped in love, kindness and boldness. Looking beyond St. Valentine, even the natural mating cycles of some of nature’s most elegant and romantic creatures seem to be wrapped up in the romantic bubble of February 14th.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a romantic or a dreamer or a fantasizer. But I think there is something to be said for a celebration that dates all the way back to the Pagans in the second century (likely even earlier). Especially one that is so focused on love when everything else in our world is so dark and sad.
I think two of the most important things for a civilisation are love and tradition. The first keeps us united and the second keeps us grounded while everything around us is changing and transforming.
Now I’m not telling you all that you should go out and spend $80 on roses simply for tradition’s sake. I’m just saying that I think it is important to value the tradition of Valentine’s Day and the love it encompasses and take a moment on February 14th to show some love to your loved ones and be grateful for the happiness they bring you. Go on a picnic, watch netflix and eat pizza together, give them a hug and simply say thankyou. Just take a second to acknowledge tradition, knowing that on the same day, people all around the world are united through doing the same thing. Isn’t that beautiful? I think it is.
You can get a lot more happiness and beauty from the world when you choose to seek out the positives instead of fuelling your inner cynic with commentary on capitalism.
Sure, show love to your partner and your loved ones every day of the year. But why not make a point of it on February 14th, as a nod to tradition and a unification with people all around the world who are doing the same beautiful thing.
Be happy, love is beautiful.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
~ Alice Maisie