A History of Sorts
Most Christian holidays have a strong tie to ancient Pagan holidays, and St. Valentine's Day is no different. St. Valentine's biography is shrouded in mystery as is the case for so many saints. Depending on the source, he either continued to marry young lovers secretly after young men were forbidden by the Emperor to marry (he figured unmarried soldiers were better soldiers), or he strove to save Christians jailed and tortured by the Romans, curing the blindness the jailor's daughter and signing a note to her "from your Valentine".
Conversion is difficult when a culture has deeply cherished holidays of its own, and the ancient Christians understood that aligning their holy days with those already celebrated would help the cause. February 15 is the celebration of Lupercalia, a raucous fertility rite.
Now, February 14 is a day that carries a lot of weight. Expectations can run high, and wallets sometimes must run deep to meet those expectations. When I posed the question on Facebook "how do you feel about Valentine's Day" I was met with a lot of frustration: "Meh" said Jessalu. "Too much pressure for guys because the media creates unrealistic expectations in women," commented K-Dubs. "Stuff-n-Nonsense...but good for the restaurant business," said my pragmatic ex-SIL. "Huge bummer," was the comment of my Most Eligible Single Girlfriend (okay, I have a couple of those, but she was the one who replied). Rae called it a "waste of time, energy, and money." The commercials, as Jessalu noted, are enraging. How to combat the ridiculous notion that a woman needs something expensive to know she is loved?
A More Cheerful Look
But then Rae made another comment, one that speaks to how I feel about this day: "I do like the red and hearts in the middle of winter. Brightens things up a bit."
Kelley (we were in first grade together! Bet we exchanged plenty of little Valentine's Day cards in our day!) said, "If it is kept simple, it can be lovely," which was echoed by Therese (from Norway, where the holiday is not celebrated) "It's a nice tradition as long as we don't over do it."
Valentine's Day at Chez Golightly
Keeping it simple is how I like to celebrate Valentine's Day. Boy, oh, boy was Neal relieved the first year we were together on Valentine's Day. About a week before, I made sure to tell him that I didn't buy into what Kate called "the annually scheduled day of affection."
My birthday is less than a week before Valentine's Day. I have no need to be celebrated twice in one week (although I have high expectations for lots of love and surprises on my birthday). But Valentine's Day is not about one person celebrating the other. To my way of thinking, it is about celebrating connection. Celebrating all types of love the Greeks defined for us: Eros, Philia, and Agape.
I tell Neal I love him many times a day. I tell my siblings I love them when I chat or email with them. I tell my parents I love them every time I see or talk to them. I am not shy about telling my loved ones how I feel. I'll bet you are the same way. Why one day to "schedule" that affection, then?
I think Rae hit on it. Winter is long. The time between Christmas (or whatever you might celebrate in December) and Easter (or whatever you might celebrate in the spring) is long and dark. A little brightness, a little cheer doesn't hurt. What does hurt is feeling that one particular form of love must be expressed in a particular way on this particular day because we have been TOLD that it should be.
What if, instead, we all took the chance to bring a little joy and cheer to ourselves and our loved ones by giving them a little time, a little, sweet, sincere expression of love? Neal and I plan to exchange homemade Valentines this year (I've even written a poem for mine!), and I am going to cook a few new dishes that I know will give pleasure to us both. I'll bring a bag of sweet treats to school for my students and colleagues. I'll take a few moments from my day to cherish those around me.
You, dear reader, are one of those whom I cherish. Thank you for giving me a reason to write. Thank you for your comments and emails. Thank you for becoming a part of my world and letting me be a part of yours.
Happy Valentine's Day, all you little pieces of my heart! Kisses and cheer to you all!