With St. Valentine's Day fast approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about a few points that always come up around this holiday. First of all, I hear something EVERY year along these lines: "Valentine's is just a made up, commercial holiday to sell stuff and force people into buying things."
To which I always reply "Wrong! And wrong, and just wrong!" St. Valentine's day did not just suddenly pop up in the liturgical calendar 20 years ago, when greeting cards were more accessible. It's been celebrated for humdred of years - in many different ways depending on the time and culture.
In fact, the holiday hasn't always been associated with romantic love, even though it has always been connected with love in general. The holiday was recorded back in ancient Rome, and the name "Valentine" is connected toat least 3 martyrs. Since the name "Valentine" comes from the word "valens," meaning admirable, it was a popular name. Legend has it that one Valentine was a Catholic priest who married young couples against the emperor's command. He was imprisoned, and while in prison made friends with the daughter of his jailor. His kindness to the family, despite his imprisonment, made a great impact on a poor family, who themselves lived in hardship. The family converted to Christianity. When the emperor found out, he ordered Valentine's execution on February 14. Valentine's last act was to send the young daughter a note signed, "Remember me, from your Valentine."
The full background of the St. Valentines (yes, there were other Valentines martyred as well) and the history of how this holiday has evolved over the centuries, can be found in the book Valentine Be Mine, by Jacqueline Farmer.
But even if you're not into history and are convinced that this is all made up, what's so horrible about celebrating a holiday that officially encourages us to tell those we love that we love them? To spend a bit of extra time with each other? To make sure we actually say "Hey, in case I don't say it or show it enough, I love you!" We need to remember we are called to turn away from cynicism, not indulge it.
And where is it written that we have to spend gobs and gobs of money? A homemade card, a little bit of chocolate or even just some extra hugs or chores done with love are all wonderfully appropriate. The heart wreath above is from the Dollar Tree. It cost exactly one dollar, and it's lovely. Its full of glitter and color, and very clearly expresses the sentiment I want to convey to my family: we may fight here and there and not always see eye to eye, but, nevertheless, we are a family with hearts united and we love one another. I certainly try to say this often, but I'm glad I am reminded to once a year on St. Valentine's Day.