Updated: Feb 8
While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of Valentine’s day, it certainly did not begin as we currently know it. History suggests on February 14th 270 AD, three men named Valentine were executed. One priest in Rome, another Bishop in Italy and the third from the Roman province of Africa.
During that time, due to strong family bonds, men were not willing to serve as military. While Emperor Claudius II banned engagements and marriages, Valentine the Roman priest disagreed and therefore continued to perform marriage ceremonies secretly. It is believed that he also attempted to convert the Emperor to Christianity. Enraged, Claudius had Valentine arrested and while imprisoned awaiting execution he wrote a farewell letter to a woman he friended and whose sight he may have restored. The letter was signed “From Your Valentine.” As a result of his service, he became Saint Valentine along with the two other martyrs named Valentine.
There is also the story of the ancient pagan ritual known as the Feast of Lupercalia or the Festival of Love. During this ritual, goats were sacrificed and women were whipped with the goats blood-soaked hides. Men were coupled with women randomly and some were later wed. This ceremony was considered a fertility rite. Pope Gelasius later abolished this pagan ritual and claimed February 14th a celebration of Saint Valentine.
So how did we come to know it as a celebration of love? Perhaps it was because of Geoffrey Chaucer. a great English poet and writer of the middle ages. He wrote the poem The Parliament of Foules that makes reference to St. Valentine’s Day and lovers.
February 14th has unfortunately become severely commercialized. People have somehow translated the expression of love into something tangible. While this isn’t a national holiday but rather a declaration of love, I welcome the opportunity to be reminded of the expression of love. We are love. Often, we journey through life forgetting what is truly of value…relationships and experiences with family and friends. Most tangible assets we acquire in life depreciate. It is the relationships we nurture that become rich.
On this day, practice giving love as an expression to everyone you come into contact with and celebrate the love you receive. A simple smile, kind word or gesture goes a long way. Don’t relegate this day solely to romantic love. Love is simply love. See the divinity in every soul, including your own. People are imperfect. Love is perfection. To know love you must first experience it within yourself. We know love when we are born into this world. It is a gift from the divine. Nothing can change God’s love for you!