According to the historychannel.com, Valentine’s Day has a murky origin. The Roman Catholic Church has listed three known saints named either Valentine or Valentinus and all three were martyred (rumor has it they met their demise after forgetting to buy flowers for their sweethearts). Another origin story tells of a 3rdCentury priest named Valentine who defied a marriage ban decreed by the emperor Claudius. Valentine, being the eternal romantic, kept right on marrying willing and ready Romans. Imprisoned, he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and began an impromptu relationship (Conjugal Visit: 1 Vow of Chastity: 0). Before his gruesome death, he wrote his love one last letter and signed it, “From your Valentine” (awww). I, personally, prefer the Pagan tradition of Lupercalia. Lupercalia is summed up by Pagan priests, prior to the Spring time, walking down the streets slapping women with bloody strips from sacrificed goats. It was thought a good slap with the bloody strip ensured fertility in females (ironically, this is how I got Alicia to start dating me). I forget where Valentine’s Day sprung from that, I was too wrapped up in the goat stuff.
Regardless of how it started, around 498AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th officially Valentine’s Day and the lives of women and the wallets of men would never be the same. From that fateful day in or around 498AD, men everywhere had one more day to mark on the calendar not to forget under penalty of a month long headache and potential nights sleeping on their sofas.
I remember, as a child, Valentine’s Day meant decorating an empty tissue box and exchanging Valentine cards with classmates. As a teen, Valentine’s Day was marked by sending out daisies for $1, to an assortment of girls but reserving the red daisies (which was as meaningful as an engagement ring in high school terms) for the really special one. Or making a mix tape titled something like ‘Love Jams’ or anything with a heart drawn on the cassette and filled with 80’s hair band balladeers and sappy soft rock crooners. Valentine’s Day in college was spent in bars with other single friends convincing ourselves, “Who needs girls anyway? Bro’s before Ho’s!”, as we guzzled pitchers of lager to drowned out our loneliness none of us were willing to admit to. Valentine’s Day was one of those holidays, after I was finished getting my tissue box filled with cards and daisies on my locker, I never really counted as legitimate. It was for girls. What do I need with chocolates or flowers?
As much as it goes against the man creed I swore to uphold when I hit puberty, Valentine’s Day is needed. Just like Christmas reminds all of us to be a little nicer to people, even the ones who stole that parking spot in the crowded mall parking lot as you waited with turn signal on (at the risk of being put on the naughty list, I really do hate those people…sorry Santa but I do), Valentine’s Day reminds us to love a little more.
It’s not that we don’t love our significant others every other day of the calendar year, it is just that every other day (with your anniversary maybe being the lone exception), we tend to take for granted the passion. The passion we had as we sat in front of a dual cassette stereo with a blank Magnavox tape and tried to time out perfectly the meticulously chosen list of rock ballads and Bon Jovi songs that best summed up our feelings for our sweethearts. The passion we had that could turn, even the guys who couldn’t make a bowl of cereal, into Wolfgang Puck for a night highlighted by the perfect candlelit dinner. But, like the shows we have saved on TiVo, our passion gets pushed to the side for another time, by life. Kids, careers, late charges on your credit cards, what is happening on ‘Lost’, tweeting about what you ate for breakfast and Kate Gosselin’s hair can all affect our passion. Life has a way of stepping in to dim the flame of passion that once burned brightly.
So Valentine’s Day, whether it started because of a romantic priest’s final letter to his lover or with Pagans slapping females with bloody goat strips, reminds us there are still reasons to find babysitters, turn of the television, or put down your cell phone. Valentine’s Day blows the shroud covering your passion and stokes the fires again. We remember why hanging out with our single friends in bars pales in comparison to sharing ‘your song’ or a candlelit dinner (provided by you or the kitchen of your favorite restaurant) with your Valentine.
I have loved my wife for everyday of the 12 years we have been together. I find it impossible to imagine what my life would be without her (possibly cliché but none the less absolutely true). And yet, we are both guilty of taking for granted why we said ‘I do’ (though she’ll never admit that). Unfortunately we sometimes forget to hit the power button on the television or turn off our phones and let each other that not only do we love one another, but the passion we had 12 years ago, when I didn’t mind shopping with her and she pretended to laugh at my jokes, still burns brightly.
More than likely I’ll venture to the jewelry store at the mall and explain how “lucky” it was I got their Sunday paper mailer. I will show them the circled and on sale item from the mailer I (and Alicia) think would make an excellent Valentine’s Day gift. Alicia and I will then scramble for a babysitter and maybe between showering and taking the dog out, I’ll load her Mp3 player. But it is not the piece of jewelry, or the flowers, or the fancy dinners that count (However, I can tell you a few hours of kid free time might be well worth it’s weight in gold). What counts is remembering, even though life tends to distract us, if we are lucky enough to have someone in our lives, we should let them know just how special they are to us (please use the bloody goat strips to drive this point home at your own risk). To open back up the passion we felt the first Valentine’s Day we spent together with our sweethearts listening to a collage of Dave Matthews, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and REO Speedwagon songs.
I was lucky enough to not only to be able to date Alicia but somehow get her to say ‘I do’ when I asked her to marry me (I partially credit the ring that took me three years to pay off for this). So after 12 years together with Alicia, I have moved well beyond the tedium of creating a good mix tape (An entire Barry White album on her Mp3? Gold.) and red colored daisies (she prefers roses anyway). And where I once opened a Kay’s credit card because of my annual pilgrimages to their store, my account is closed (this does not stop my wife from all too conspicuously leaving the Kay’s Valentine’s mailer next to my car keys with the specific piece of jewelry she has her eye on every February 1st).
Instead I opt for letting her know my passion stills burns bright by a simple holding of her hand. Telling her how beautiful she looks. Telling her “I love you” from the bottom of my soul and not from daily repetitious reflex. Maybe I’ll even go shopping with her (probably not)? And telling her, she, more than anyone else walking around this Earth, is the only one I ever want to Be my Valentine.
(I still might stop at the florist though… just to be on the safe side)