It has been called a “Hallmark Holiday” for its synonymity with the rush to buy greeting cards, flowers and heart-shaped boxes of sweets but the day of love did not always have such a consumer-driven meaning.
St. Valentine’s Day’s origins go back a long time, to 269 AD to be precise, when Valentine of Rome was martyred for his Christian faith.
The day is said to also have been named for both him and Valentine of Terni, who was also martyred in 197 AD.
However, neither of these historical figures have brought us to where we are today in terms of celebrating the day of love as we know it.
Like many Christian holidays and festivals, St. Valentine’s Day as we know it today also could have originated from Roman times when they celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia. Back then, Romans observed a holiday on February 14 to honour Juno, the Queen of Roman Gods and Goddesses who was often regarded as the Goddess of women and marriage.
On February 15, the fertility festival of Lupercalia would begin to honour the gods Lupercus and Faunus for the Roman God of Agriculture. It was tradition at this festival that the young boys and girls, who otherwise were strictly separated, were brought together in the hopes that they would fall in love during the celebrations. On the eve of the festival, the names of Roman girls were written on a slip of paper and placed into jars. Each young man drew out a girl’s name from the jar and was paired with the girl for the duration of Lupercalia.
During the Middle Ages, a popular belief held in England and in France was that February 14 was the day that many birds began to look for a mate.
These are just a few examples because many cultures around the world have always had particular days to celebrate love and romance. Over time in many cultures, St. Valentine became the patron saint of love and the day became associated with exchanging simple gifts, like love notes and flowers.
While the sending of actual Valentines came into fashion in Great Britain in the 19th century, the modern manifestation of the cards we know and love did not become as widespread in North America until 1847. At that time Esther Howland developed a successful business in her Worcester, Massachusetts home by making recreations of the cards.
Now 150 years later, Valentine’s Day as we know it is a multi-billion dollar commercial boom for retailers, restaurants and hotels.
However, in places like Eeyou Istchee it isn’t easy to find a dozen freshly cut long-stem roses, an intimate restaurant for a romantic meal or a luxury hotel room for a couple’s night out. Even the selection of Valentine’s Day cards is not that spectacular.
It is for this reason that sometimes the most romantic thing people can do for their partners is to give them something that cannot be purchased: time.
For this Valentine’s Day why not take the time to go back to reminding your partner why you love them, with a note. Though many may not write well, a simple reminder of the moment you fell in love with them and how or what you love most about them can often be priceless compared with any commercial purchase.
Accompanying these words with a gesture of your time and effort will only solidify how much you care for and appreciate your partner. This could be anything from preparing their favourite meal, taking care of the kids while they take a nap or relax or do something self-indulgent. Fixing that one thing in the house that they can’t fix, cleaning their car before they go to work or even planning an evening to watch a movie that they would like but might not be your thing are simple and selfless gestures that can often be so much more meaningful because they are personal. Little notes to promise actions in the future that can be redeemed when they so choose are also a wonderful suggestion.
As the day approaches, look to see what those you love most need to be reminded just how special they are to you and do the best you can to remind them of that. Though the Love industry might push what they want you to give, love is not for sale and what is truly in your heart is immensely more valuable.