This blessed day happens to be February 14, celebrated as Valentine’s Day throughout the western world.
It’s a day where we pledge our undying love to our nearest and dearest, feel brave enough to let someone know how we really feel, and tell our friends we are glad they are in our lives.
Saint Valentine himself was oblivious to the fuss he would cause after his martyrdom. The legend goes that he was a third century Roman saint who performed weddings for soldiers against the Emperor’s orders, was imprisoned for it, then returned sight to his jailer’s blind daughter.
He then made the brave but fateful decision to preach to Emperor Claudius II, who did not take kindly to the conversion attempt. He condemned poor Valentine to death by beating, then beheading.
On the eve of his execution, Valentine wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter, signed, “From your Valentine.”
Meanwhile, every February the pagan Romans had a charming ceremony known as Lupercalia, which was said to bless women with fertility over the coming year. Pagan priests sacrificed two male goats and a dog, then dressed themselves in the skin. They made whips out of the leftover flesh, then ran around the city flicking women with it to bestow fertility on them. Because nothing says ‘I love you’ like being whipped by a man dressed in a goat carcass.
The pagan tradition was usurped with a day dedicated to Saint Valentine in the 14th century, first mentioned by poet Geoffrey Chaucer in “The Parlement of Foules”. It only took a century for Saint Valentine’s Day to become an occasion for lovers to offer hand-written notes and confectionary to one another.
Since then, you could say we’ve got a little carried away with it. According to the U.S. Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, on average each American spends $116.21 on Valentine’s Day. Collectively, the nation spends $13.19 billion on Valentine’s Day each year, sending180 million cards and giving 196 million roses.
Women buy 85 per cent of cards, while men buy 73 per cent of flowers. Note the difference, because, apparently, 53 per cent of women say they would end their relationship if their significant other did not give them something on February 14. Goodness knows who those women are because most women I know would be single forever under those rules.
Valentine’s Day may be a big day for business, but it’s important that we make it much more than that.
In these days of children being shot in their classroom, and natural disasters wiping out thousands, of divorce rates and homelessness on the rise, we should take any chance we get to put more love out into the world.
This February 14, sure, give your beloved a card, buy a box of chocolates, take them out for dinner.
But also, let’s take the chance to be extra kind to everyone we come into contact with. It doesn’t have to cost money — an act of kindness can take many forms.
Bake a batch of cookies for your neighbour. Write a thank-you note for your garbage collector. Take care of a parking fine for another driver and leave the receipt with an anonymous note.
And if someone does something kind for you, pass it on into the community. Find your own way to show love to your city this month.
The United Way of Cranbrook and Kimberley has agreed to document these random acts of kindness as they pop up around the community. Through the month of February, you can visit the office on Baker Street, by HSBC, to record a kindness you have performed or received on a heart-shaped post-it note, which will be added to a window display. If you can’t get to the office, post your kindness to the United Way Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ourunitedway.
It’s a tradition that Saint Valentine could really get behind.