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There are few holidays out there that are quite as divisive as Valentine’s Day.  Every year the arguments start up about the relevance of the holiday.  For every person you find that celebrates and enjoys the holiday you will find another who dismisses and is even disgusted by it as nothing more than a commercial holiday meant to sell candy and greeting cards.

The truth, in my opinion, lies somewhere in the middle.

The fact is very little is known about the St. Valentine who was martyred and buried on February 14 during the reign of Claudius.  In fact, there are several St. Valentines.  But, the truth of the matter is none of them have their feast days connected to the concept of romantic love, or anything like it, in the calendars of the early Catholic Church.

The connection to this concept is also something about which the experts have a certain amount of disagreement.  Some believe that the timing of the holiday was meant to “Christianize” the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, much as the selection of December 25 for Christmas had done with the pagan Yule celebrations.  Others believe the connection has its roots in the High Middle Ages with Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, particularly with his work “Parliament of Foules.”

Whatever the reasoning, the holiday became popular in England during the height of the concept of “courtly love.”  Traditionally there were gifts of flowers, sweets, and handwritten notes which, as you might guess, became known as valentines.

And then, in 1847, the American spirit of entrepreneurship got hold of the holiday.  It was in this year is Worcester, Massachusetts that an enterprising woman by the name of Esther Howland began producing and selling hand-made cards that were in the English tradition.

And, thus, the commercialization of the holiday began.

Today, we see it everywhere for a short while after Christmas and before Easter.  Every store has red and pink everywhere and you can’t escape from hearts, flowers, and cupid with his bow and arrow.  Even we geeks cannot entirely escape as MMO’s like World of Warcraft have in-game festivities like the “Love is in the Air” festival. 

So, yes, Valentine’s Day is, in many ways a creation.  A fiction.

But, at the same time, is it such a bad thing to set aside a day to recognize the love you have for that special someone in your life?  Leave the commercialization out of it.  Don’t buy into the Hallmark, pre-packaged, “romance in a box” approach.  But, take just a little time to make that person feel special in a way they may not have felt in a while with our overscheduled, overstressed, always on the run lives. 

Just try to remember the reason you are with them.  Recapture that love, and cherish it, if just for a few moments.


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