With hearts and flowers abounding, I thought it would be interesting to look into the origins of Valentine’s Day. It seems the holiday originated in Rome with the mid-February festival of Lupercalia celebrating the coming of spring. There were fertility rites women were paired off with men by lottery!1 Then sometime in the third century, Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day. The back story has it that Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Claudius found out what was going on, he ordered that Valentine be put to death. Add to this the story of Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop, who, according to some, was the true namesake of the holiday. He, too, was beheaded by Claudius II outside Rome. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.
So how did we get to a day a flowers and chocolate from these ignominious beginnings? Chaucer had something to do with it when he talked about the ‘coupling’ on St. Valentine’s Day and made it a romantic notion, instead of an emotionless lottery. Then, sometime after that, the greeting card industry got busy and now Valentine’s Day is a major annual event with some $20 BILLION spent for the occasion in the United States.
The thing is though, love happens 365 days a year. Isn’t it important to let our loved ones know they are special every day? While it’s a nice idea to have a day devoted to the ones we cherish, it seems somehow forced and, for many, a phony demonstration of caring. And what about those who have no ‘designated lover/partner’? Whether one is single due to death, divorce or some other circumstance, the notion of Valentine’s Day can be painful and lonely. Love is not limited to romantic partnership. Love is everywhere, always and forever. Why not reach out to your single family and friends and let them know they are loved; let them know that they matter to you, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.
Be a Savvy Senior! Commit to making every day Valentine’s Day. Commit to living and loving large, to letting the people who matter to you know that they matter! Let’s promise to love and cherish each other every single day, not just one day of the year.