If you are among the legions of Valentine’s Day haters, you will be happy to know that this highly-commercialized, ooey-gooey, annual celebration of hearts and flowers didn’t exactly start out as a love fest.
In fact, the first Valentine’s Day was … well, it was a little awkward. Let’s put it that way.
Oh, there was a dinner involved, but it wasn’t romantic. It was a religious feast held to celebrate the beheading of at least one third-century Christian martyr.
Put that on a conversation heart.
If you are annoyed by the cold water I am throwing on the calendar’s sultriest day, you should know that I did not come up with this. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Belgian monks spent 300 years collecting data that reveals there were multiple Saints Valentine who died on February 14, two of them executed, inspiring the aforementioned liturgical feast.
So where did the “love thing” come from? Well, you can’t blame this one on Hallmark.
Fast-forward about a thousand years from the whole beheading feast. Geoffrey Chaucer, author of one of the longest books ever, The Canterbury Tales, decided to link the St. Valentinus feast to the alleged mid-February mating rituals of birds.
That kind of makes the heart go pitter-pat, doesn’t it?
Chaucer was a pretty hip guy at the time, and his notion took off with European nobility, who began sending love notes in mid-February. Everything kind of took off from there.
Personally, I kind of prefer a celebration of love to a beheading dinner. I know a lot of people who are far more cynical, however.
I have never understood why a day dedicated to love – no matter how it actually started – can inspire such wrath, but it does.
It’s not just the birds who aren’t paired with a mate that squawk about Valentine’s Day; plenty of happily-mated people are over the hype. Business Insider projected people would spend 20.7 billion dollars on their Valentines in 2019. But, who says expressing love has to cost anything?
Who says the love we celebrate on February 14 has to be the romantic variety? When I handed out Cookie Monster Valentine cards to my third-grade classmates, I promise you, I was not thinking about romance. Boys. Ick.
It was all about exchanging expressions of affection – and maybe the candy hearts – but, mostly, the friendly gestures involved.
I read every single cartoon character-adorned note in my homemade mailbox, decorated with construction paper hearts.
Maybe we shouldn’t need a day to remind us to express love for the people around us, but we have one – so why not take advantage of it?
He doesn’t do it anymore, but my father used to buy me a heart-shaped box of chocolates every Valentine’s Day. When I got home from school on February 14, it was always there waiting for me. It was never about the chocolates, either. After I stuck my finger into the middle of each piece to see what was inside, I ended up eating only about two of them.
My father knew that dopey little heart-shaped box reminded me of one simple thing, the best thing of all: I was loved.