Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Interesting, isn't it, that we choose to commemorate someone's death by giving each other Hallmark cards and boxes of chocolates?

It's true. Saints' days are celebrated on the dates of their deaths--not their births, as we so often do for modern heroes from Washington to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Elvis. But it gets even more complicated.

Apparently there were several saints named Valentine. The one whose death was recorded to have occurred on February 14 was, according to Wikipedia, "martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him."  He and two others, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, share the saints' day established about 500 A.D. While all of the Valentines were doubtless ardent believers and died in the faith, none of them seems to have been particularly romantic so far as we know.

So why do we consider Valentine's Day a day of romance and love? Ask Chaucer. Apparently it was in the 14th century when he wrote, "For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."  And from there we get to the Hallmark holiday we know today.

I have known people who hate Valentine's Day, in part because the world pairs off, and if one is without a mate, the celebrations of the day only accentuate that state. Others feel that the day is an artificial excuse for florists, chocolatiers, and greeting card companies to dip into our wallets. And still others revere it as a chance to focus on their significant others, and tell them, in words they might not often say, that they are important and loved. Whatever the origin or exploitation of the day, that can't be all bad.

What do you think? Do love Valentine's Day? Hate it? Or are you somewhere in between?


  1. Showing others that you care about them is always a good thing. However, turning it into an annual ritual seems to imply that we are little more than thoughtless oafs in need of cues and prescribed props to express how we feel. Dare I suggest that now is the time for all self-respecting sheep to rise up and cast off the tinkling bells some marketing guru has strapped around their necks?

  2. Have you noticed how many cards on the racks these days say something like: I don't often mention it, but I love/appreciate/am grateful for you. Perhaps those who write and produce cards think we are thoughtless oafs.