Thoughts on VALENTINE’S DAY
What is VALENTINE’S DAY to you? Is it a beautiful card, flowers, a box of heart shaped chocolates, a dinner date or going to a formal dance? Is it romantic words whispered low? Or is it an action that shows love in an intangible way? Is it giving up something to prove your love to someone?
I have researched some ideas about Valentine’s Day. The first one that stands out is the story that in 278 A.D Emperor Claudius of Rome was furious because he wanted to have a big army but men did not want to fight for him. He decided not to allow any more marriages so that they would be devoted only to him. A priest named Valentine thought this was preposterous so he continued to marry young people in secret. He was caught and thrown into prison. Many young people came to the jail to visit him and threw flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted him to know that they, too, believed in love. One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit Saint Valentine in his cell.
Later Valentine was executed by being beheaded. On the day he was to die, the priest left his friend a little note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, “Love from your Valentine.” This seemed strange to me, actually ‘preposterous’ is a great description! I researched further.
The explanation I discovered about this ‘legend’ was that Catholics were getting ‘caught up’ with some of the pagan rituals. The Church sought to Christianize the pagan Lupercalia Festival the Romans performed every year in the middle of February. It was a celebration of springtime and fertility (among other things) and as part of it young men would randomly draw women’s names from an urn in order to be matched with them for the following year. The Church changed the rituals to eliminate the random sexual pairings and chose a new religious symbol to be honored (St Valentine) to replace the pagan gods and animal sacrifices. So that’s it! The church wanted to change the pagan acts. This made more sense. But I questioned why the church tried to copy worldly practices? Why weren’t they the LEADERS?
Then I wondered where Chocolate entered into this picture? It was time to check back with “Google”. We always hear a lot of warnings about the dangers of the internet, but it has a lot of good information. Here’s what I found about chocolate:
“The cacao tree is thought to have originated in the Amazon. The word chocolate can be traced back 2000+ years all the way to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which meant “bitter water” and referred to an unsweetened drink the Aztecs brewed from cacao beans. There’s also evidence of an ancient alcoholic brew made by fermenting the fleshy fruit that surrounds the cacao beans in old pottery remnants from Honduras. Cacao beans were also considered by the Mayans and the Aztecs to be divine and magical, with legends attributing the origins of the tree and beans to various Gods in the heavens. Cacao beans were considered valuable and often used as currency for the ancient tribes, in addition to being incorporated into many sacred rituals.
Since chocolate was considered valuable, divine, and decadent, what better gift to give a woman? The first chocolate candies (as we know them today) were invented in the 1860s by Cadbury, who was also the first to market them in a heart-shaped box for Valentine’s Day that same decade. I wonder if he knew at the time what a historic idea it would turn out to be.
So, does this link chocolate to pagan practices? Hmm. Interesting thought!
My summation is that giving a Valentine is an act of love on a horizontal level. It’s people to people. This ‘love’ is often fickle, yet there is a vertical love that comes from the Creator to the created. So whether you are happy or sad on Valentine ’s Day please realize that the vertical love is steadfast and whether you see Him or not—He is always there beside you.
Whatever label you may put on yourself, whether it’s a denomination, atheism, Islam, new age, or any other –our Creator, God, loves EVERYONE no matter whether you acknowledge Him or not. His greatest “Valentine” was showing His love to us ALL through His Son Jesus Christ taking away our sins by dying in our place. What greater love can there be?