y. It makes me want to barf. These are the accusations commonly leveled against one of my personal favorite holidays, Valentine’s Day. Many claim the holiday doesn’t celebrate love but exploits it for profit. So often I hear Valentine’s Day attacked like no other holiday that we celebrate. And why?
Like most holidays, the history of Valentine’s Day is entrenched in myth. There was more than one St. Valentine in history and nobody is quite sure how the name became associated with love and romance.
The most popular of the St. Valentines was a Roman priest. According to legend the priest caught the eye of the emperor Claudius II when Valentine was discovered illegally marrying couples.
Claudius let that crime go but when the priest tried to convert the emperor, Claudius had Valentine beaten, stoned, and finally decapitated on, you guessed it, Feb. 14. According to Allison Berry of Time, it was somewhere in the fourteenth century that Feb. 14 became the romantic holiday we celebrate today.
It’s likely that Valentine’s secret marriages are a myth built upon over the years to better represent the holiday it came to be associated with. Little is known for sure about the St. Valentines or the historical events surrounding them.
Does this make the holiday any less meaningful? If we’re to hold Valentine’s day accountable for its inaccuracies, what of our other national holidays?
James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, will inform us that Thanksgiving was originally invented by Lincoln to boost patriotism during the Civil War. It wasn’t until the 1890s that Squanto and the Pilgrims were added to the holiday’s backstory.
There’s no doubt that Squanto was a real person, but his true relationship with the Pilgrims has been vastly misinterpreted by the myths of Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving, like Valentine’s Day, has its historical flaws. But so does Christmas. Sure, St. Nicholas was a real person as well. But I have a strange feeling that he never soared the night sky in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
Still, do we not think of Dec. 25 as magical? And can’t we still take the day of Nov. 28 to contemplate what we’re thankful for? And if that’s true, then I think Feb. 14 is as good a day as any to celebrate one of the most powerful human sentiments of all time. Love.
And why not? Because we’re worried about being exploited by Hallmark? Even I’ll admit that Valentine’s Day has been hijacked by card companies somewhere along the way.
But there is no higher authority forcing us to buy roses, chocolates, and cards. Our significant other may claim they want the cliché Valentine gifts but trust me; they will not be disappointed if we organize an elaborate scavenger hunt, cover a pond in rose petals, or anything unique and meaningful expressing how much they mean to us.
That is why Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Love, like magic and thankfulness, deserves a holiday. How it came to be isn’t important. How we spend it now is.
Valentine’s Day is an opportunity; an excuse to do something truly special. And if we’re willing to go that extra mile, why not do it on Feb. 14?
Zach Pearson can be contacted at