Like it or lump it, Valentine’s Day is coming this weekend. That commercialistic, sappy holiday sponsored by Hallmark. It also happens to be my birthday, so clearly this is my favorite holiday and I think it’s worthy of celebration. It doesn’t have to be a commercial mess like a certain December holiday, and it doesn’t have to be solely about romantic love. Let’s take a look at where it all began.
The history of Valentine’s Day is murky and muddled, but it’s clear that it started in Rome as a fertility festival called Lupercalia. It was celebrated as most Romans festivals were with nakedness, drunkeness, and sex. Oh, also the women were whipped by men with the hides of newly slain animals, all in the name of fertility, of course.
Later, St. Valentine was added in to the festival. The church was not, and is not, sure which man named Valentine this saint was named after, apparently there were several that were martyred for their faith in some fashion or other.
St. Valentine was made part of the celebration in an attempt to Christianize the holiday. Pope Gelasius the First did this in order to “put the clothes back on” the festival even though it remained a drunken party. By the way, that is the funniest description of how Christians took something over, isn’t it? Can we please describe all Christian cultural things that way? GodTube is like YouTube but with clothes on. Creation Fest is like Woodstock but with clothes on. (Yeah, those are things.) Terrible Christian movies are like the ones from Hollywood but with clothes on. I could do this all day.
Anyway, by Shakespeare’s time, Valentine’s Day was becoming more about romantic love and continued to do so until Hallmark got ahold of it in 1913. And here we are today. My point in all this is not that we go back to the origins and bring back fertility beatings, but that the holiday really has no set agenda to it, outside of Hallmark’s bottom line. Which means, at least in my figuring, that you can do whatever you want with this day.
In our house we use Valentine’s Day, and really the whole month, as an opportunity to tell our loved ones they are special to us. Our boys have been making cards for weeks, mailing them, delivering them door to door, and passing out chocolates. We tell them that sometimes we have special sweethearts on Valentine’s Day, and sometimes we don’t, but that’s not really the point. The point is that there are always people in our life who we can show love to, because God’s love never stops for us.
Every Valentine’s Day I make a card for Tim (take that, Hallmark!). It’s usually silly, I’ve usually stolen the idea from someone on the internet, but it’s fun, and it’s us. Here’s last year’s card. And honestly, I love the idea of giving something, anything, on my birthday. You should try it too.
So I challenge you to look at this day differently. If you’re tempted to complain about it, instead do something about it. Send an encouraging note to a friend. Buy someone flowers. Make something. Bake cookies. If this is a special day to you and your significant other, great! But don’t forget that romantic love is not the only thing worth celebrating. How can the two of you work together to bring joy to someone else?
Take this day back. How will you celebrate your Valentine’s Day? Let me know. And enjoy your chocolates.