It is for some the most dreaded, yet for others the most anticipated holiday of the year. The time where singles feel obligated to reflect on their irresponsible romantic decisions, and a time where couples feel the commercialized stress to impress their partners. Valentine’s Day.
It seems society has forced us into choosing one or the other. Either pity yourself or pressure yourself. Yet with most holidays that occur, rarely do we take time to think about the true origins of this annual celebration.
There are several historical accounts that detail who Saint Valentine really was. Each tradition, however, intertwines very similar themes: reckless, sacrificial love, and a bold lion-like courage. A love for others, a deeply committed love for one’s faith, and a noble fearlessness.
The most documented account is that of Valentinus of Rome, a devout follower of Christ who is said to have died on February 14, AD 270. His popular Latin name translates to “strong” or “worthy.” And strength indeed he exuded. Heralded as the ultimate martyr, his story has been passed down, romanticized, glamorized, and now, ironically, commercialized.
But Saint Valentine himself would have likely desired a very different outcome as it pertains to his own legacy.
According to various accounts within both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church, Saint Valentine, under the rule of Roman Emperor Claudius II, would secretly conduct wedding ceremonies for Christians. At the time, Christianity was forbidden, and so any expressions of the faith HAD TO BE discrete. Thus, in risking his own safety, he chose to put the desires of others before his own. Another narrative follows Valentinus as a devout believer who refused to convert to paganism, and was thus martyred. Additional beliefs follows the miracles of St. Valentine, one in particular where he is specifically remembered for healing the daughter of his jailer, restoring her sight after she suffered from blindness. A virtuous man indeed, still exuding love in the midst of persecution. Some accounts even suggest that on the day of his execution, he left her a note signed "Your Valentine". Perhaps all these legends were true. But one thing we know for certain, Saint Valentine was both bold and unapologetic when it came to love.
Today we regard Valentine’s Day as a time for couples to revel in chocolate hearts and hallmark cards. And though there’s so much sweetness to that sentiment, I believe Valentinus himself would have wanted to be remembered for more.
Valentine’s Day is all about taking risks. To put yourself on the line for the things you believe in. To take a leap of faith even if difficult consequences arise. Valentine’s Day represents love indeed, but a love for all.
Think about your Valentine plans (or lack thereof) and challenge yourself to put real action behind this feeling of love we so often romanticize.
Always see that same homeless guy on the corner of your street? Buy him a meal for a change. Frustrated with that one difficult family member? Send them a message of peace and encouragement. Remembering those mentors who had a huge impact on your life? Deliver a message of gratitude. Have a secret goal you have been pondering but afraid to approach, take a leap of faith and put yourself out there.
St. Valentine’s legacy holds power and weight because authentic love is the driving force. While commercialism has stepped in to reduce the sacred memory of his story, what and how we choose to celebrate makes all the difference.
If centuries of tradition have remained relevant, let’s keep it relevant for the right reasons. Happy Valentine’s Day! Get out there and spread some love – love that honors your courage, love that honors your surroundings, love that honors, love =)
-Loureen Ayyoub // @theglobalhuman // @la_loureen