Valentine's Day is approaching and let's face it, most of us are still crawling out from under the debt monster of Christmas. The idea that Valentine's Day was started because St. Valentine was murdered for not converting to paganism, and now that "in honor" of his death we celebrate love and affection, is just one of those crazy cultural things.
According to a Medieval story, St. Valentine was persecuted as a Christian by Roman Emperor Claudius II who wanted him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.
The legend provided no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail.
There is an additional modern embellishment to The Golden Legend, provided by American Greetings, and widely repeated despite having no historical basis whatsoever. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first "valentine" card himself, addressed to a young girl, the jailer's daughter whom he had befriended and healed, or both. It was a note that read "From your Valentine."
Ok, so maybe it's like Mother's and Father's Days, created by the greedy capitalist greeting card companies to guilt you into spending money to say I love you, or Thank You, to the important people in life that make it worth getting out of bed each morning. Do we need a date on the calendar to remind us to send a sentimental (or sarcastic) card or greeting? Really? If we need that then what does that tell us about our relationships and our culture?
So, now that you've been given a history lesson and some political dramatization, back to the simple part.
How about this year, instead of overindulging on the candy, cheesy cards, flowers (that by the way, triple in price on Feb. 1) and t-shirts, let's try something simple.
*Bake cookies and send/take them to your loved ones, but don't do it on Valentine's Day. Come on, be original and pick a different day.
* Drop off an anonymous note and treat to someone you admire.
* Bring in the neighbor's garbage can.
* Text, email or write a note and leave it in a place your loved one(s) will see it.
* Make a donation to a charity you care about. It doesn't have to be a lot, but will do more than a box of chocolates.
* Make a special dinner. HINT: This is directed to the person who doesn't normally cook dinner. Get out a cookbook, choose a simple meal and surprise your partner with the thought that you cared enough to give her (or him) a break.
*Rent a movie and make some popcorn. Guys, "suffering" through a chick flick isn't the worst form of torture you'll ever have to endure. It will gain big bonus points.
This holiday should be about kindness and love, not about spending more money we may not have to impress someone you care about. Think outside the box and do something that will really make a difference.
Will you take the challenge??