In case you haven’t heard, today is Valentine’s Day. I have to admit, this is not one of my favorite ‘holidays.’ I think that started in grade school when we had to make and decorate our Valentine folder where hopefully, all of our classmates would deposit a cute card. I remember sitting at the table with my other siblings while we carefully (or not) wrote our names on the little cards that my parents had to buy in bulk. This was my first encounter with ‘popularity’ and I was dismayed to find some kids got more and better cards than others. And I have to admit, I made sure my friends got the best cards in the pack.
Then when boys came into the picture, there was the anxiety over having a date for the dances and if you had a boyfriend, hoping he didn’t break up with you right before so he wouldn’t have to buy you a present. Once married, there was the big decision on how to celebrate, how much could we afford to spend on a present, and whether he would even remember!
I have to admit that having put all that behind me, I’m a bit less anxious about February 14. My only concern is picking up a little something for my grandkids and that is very doable.
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day we show our love for those we love…it is a day for sweethearts. You may be surprised to find that it wasn’t invented by Hallmark, although an estimated 130 million cards are bought for the occasion. And even though physicians in the 1800’s advised eating chocolate to calm pining for a lost love, the candy industry didn’t invent it either.
There are several popular stories about the origin of Valentine’s Day but I like this one the best. Sometime around 270 AD, a mean and cruel Emperor named Claudius II decided soldiers would fight better if they weren’t married so he declared a ban on marriage. A Christian Bishop named Valentine decided that was unreasonable and started performing weddings. As a result, he was arrested, put into prison where he was beaten and then beheaded…supposedly on February 14. A pretty gory beginning to a holiday about love!
There are other stories about St. Valentine; like when he made the blind daughter of his jailor see again and then before he died, wrote her a note and signed it, “From Your Valentine.” Or that he was asked to denounce Christ while he was in jail and after refusing, was executed.
Even if all of this was made up by the Pope to create a Christian holiday to replace the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, I still like it for two reasons.
First, it shows that love triumphs over evil. The Christian martyr defies the evil emperor and unites couples in matrimony all while professing his love of Christ…now that’s a great story. And we know that love won out because we set aside one day a year to celebrate St. Valentine…has anyone even heard of Claudius II before today?
Second, we often use the word love to convey a feeling rather than as an action word. St. Valentine didn’t just profess his love for his fellow Christians and for Jesus; he showed it by defying the Emperor and ultimately giving up his life. This is supported in 1 John 3:18, “Dear Children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
So from now on, I’ll remember the day not as another gimmick to get me to buy cards, candy or flowers; but as a way for me to be like St. Valentine and show my love for God and those around me through a specific action…to Love1st.