As long as February still has 24 hours before it officially expires in 2012, I still consider Valentine’s Day a relevant topic. Why shouldn’t we designate every day as an opportunity to express love?
The best Valentine I ever got didn’t come from a boyfriend, spouse, best friend or family, although those have been appreciated as well. Who needs Hallmark when God allowed his only son to be nailed to a cross to demonstrate His love for me. “For God so loved the world that He sent his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV) Now that’s everlasting love.
Just like Christmas and Easter, today’s Valentine’s Day celebration is rooted in a mixture of Christian and pagan traditions. Although the details vary depending on the web site, www.history.com states that the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different Saints by the name of Valentine, all of whom were martyred. Disagreement lingers about why they were killed, but all legends include descriptions of a sympathetic, romantic type of guy. By the Middle Ages he was everyone’s favorite in England and France.
While some believe Valentine’s death occurred in the middle of February (A.D. 270) and thus our calendars are marked accordingly today, others are convinced that the Christian Church designated February to honor St. Valentine in order to compete with a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15. Christianity, however did not initially squelch Lupercalia. But by the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared Valentine’s Day as officially February 14. The idea of making Valentine’s Day for romance was inspired during the Middle Ages by the belief that February marked the mating season for birds in England and France.
Valentine greetings originate as far back as the Middle Ages. Esther A. Howland started the first mass produced greetings in America around the 1840s. According the Greeting Card Association, today an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Greeting cards are sent each year. This makes Valentine’s Day the second largest card sending holiday of the year, with Christmas taking first place. Women purchase about 84 percent of all Valentines.
My fiancé and I despise Hallmark’s commercialism, and the pressure inflicted on men to buy flowers and/or candy as the only appropriate way to show their affections. The sea of floral arrangements neatly packaged at all the local grocery stores two weeks ago, however beautiful, were dizzying. Flowers he has given me and gifts we have exchanged on other occasions mean so much more.
Why hasn’t Hallmark invented a line of cards to celebrate singlehood? When I was single just a few short years ago, it was helpful for me to focus on God’s unconditional love on this day rather than grumble about my loneliness. While some of us appreciate the blessing of our special someones, we should still reach out to others who may be raw from recent break-ups or divorces. And what about the widows, widowers and those waiting on the Lord for their spouse?
What if we use Valentine’s Day not only as a reminder to tell that special someone how important they are, but also to point us back to our Creator, and the even deeper love He has for us? Who among your circle of single friends could use an extra hug and encouragement this week or the next?