February 14, 2014
By Becky Mahoney
Happy Valentine’s Day to the U.S. economy! This year, we’re projected to spend 14 billion dollars on dining, cards, candy, flowers, jewelry, lingerie and heaven only knows what other goodies to induce a romantic romp.
Who started this lovers day? The cynical me, thought it was probably the brainchild of the Board at Hallmark. Maybe it was conceived In Belgium on the factory floor of Godiva Chocolates when a worker messed up a batch and snuck them to the hottie across the assembly line, with a “Will you be mine?” It really does have International origins. This day of love, or in the case of Romans, lust, originated in ancient Rome. Recorded tales detail animal sacrifice and the ritualistic slapping of woman with the skins of animals during the Feast of Lupercalia. Fifty Shades of Grey seems tame compared to those frisky Roman dudes. Literally, hitting on women, these animal skin whippings were followed up by a matchmaking lottery in which young men drew the names of women from a jar, and a couple would hook up, at least for the duration of the festival. Sort of like Match.com without profiles or pictures. That’s one version.
The one I prefer, tells a bittersweet tale of pure love that has its beginnings in both the early Christian Church and Roman history. Legend spins the tale of St. Valentine, a martryed saint. Emperor Claudius II, proclaimed single men made better soldiers than those preoccupied with spouses, and banned marriage from his empire. Father Valentine thumbed his nose at the Emperor, and risking his own safety, secretly performed marriages for young lovers. Captured and imprisoned for treason, he fell in love with his jailor’s beautiful daughter, who visited him during his confinement. On the day of his execution, February 14th, as a gift to her, he wrote a love letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
I’ve run the gamut with Valentine’s Day love, from over the top gifts and attention, to crying in my self-purchased, heart shaped box of chocolates. By far the best Valentine experiences I’ve had, have been in the last few years; after I decided it wasn’t necessary to be someone’s other half, to find joy in the day. After all, wasn’t it about Love? Love wasn’t exclusive. The formula didn’t have to be one plus one equals Valentine fun. A significant other can be anyone who has made a difference in our lives. Furthermore, everyone is significant in the eyes of our Creator. Wow. I had an ocean of “lovers” to share my heart with, if I chose. The rose colored glasses came off, and I no longer allowed this part pagan, part Christian, part Hallmark holiday, to decide whether it was a good or bad Valentine’s Day based on a feeling…or a status. Single or married, I had much love to give.
Love then become a dynamic verb, ready to dance into the lives of others. I made personalized Valentine cards, thanking special individuals who’d touched me, helped me, inspired, and loved me in the past year. Especially those who had held me close to their hearts, helping to heal my broken one, and reminding me of what was lovable about me when I wasn’t capable of doing that for myself. This heart, I thought had gone dark, was now lit up and infused. I let my heart light shine again, and I was in the mood for a Lovefest. There was no turning back, and the next year, I made chocolate dipped strawberries and randomly delivered them to my single friends. One year I wrote a love letter to a 90 year old man, just to let him know he was the hottest man I knew. His kindness, compassion, generosity and love of life was a living Valentine. I’ve discovered, playing Cupid, and finding ways to extend love, has been far more rewarding than being pierced by the sweet cherub’s arrow.
Valentine’s Day is a powerful reminder that love is all around us. Gift wrapped from God, it’s painted in the mystery of His starry night sky, in second chances, and through random acts of kindness. Let me count the ways. Today, I opened up an envelope and a perfect, construction paper heart, fell out. It was a big and bright red, from the heart of one I think personifies St. Valentine. It’s the best Valentine I could ever receive. You just can’t top the gift of someone’s heart.
Happy Valentine’s Day…With Love.