Valentine’s Day – Where did it come from?

Just as love is mysterious and often surrounded with intrigue and romance, so is the history of Valentine’s Day. Just how did this day of love, celebrated each year on February 14, get started? Who is Saint Valentine? Where did this tradition of cards and chocolate come from?

Going back to ancient times, there were several Saint Valentines, but lore and legend surrounds primarily Valentine of Rome, a priest who served in the third century during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II. Allegedly, Claudius ordered that young men were to remain single, believing that marriage made men poor soldiers. According to this legend, Valentine, wanting to help young couples in love, secretly performed marriages for them. He was caught and imprisoned and later put to death – on February 14. Legend further suggests that he performed a miracle while in jail by curing the jailer’s blind daughter, restoring her sight. It is believed that while in jail, he grew very fond of, and even to love the young girl and the night before he was put to death, he wrote a note to her that was signed, “from your Valentine”.

Many facts remain unclear. But putting legend or lore aside, one thing is very clear – today Valentine’s Day, the second largest card sending holiday of the year (behind Christmas) is celebrated every February 14 with flowers, cards, gifts, chocolate – all in the name of love. According to the U.S. Greeting Card Association, approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide! Women purchase nearly 85% of all valentine cards.

Valentine’s Day comes with expectations, trepidation, and yes, even fear! The day is particularly difficult for couples who are newly dating or dating casually. It is even more difficult if one partner’s expectations or hopes are different than the other’s. For example, the pressure can be enormous if one is hoping for commitment and the other is not ready. Thoughts of “I wonder what I’ll get for Valentine’s Day” or, worse, “What should I give for Valentine’s Day” can be daunting and haunting!

Will he propose? (Is she expecting me to propose?) Should I buy flowers? (I wonder if I’ll get flowers?) Does she love me? (Should I say, “I love you”?) Cards?? Gifts?? It can be overwhelming.

So, how do we approach this day without doing too much, or too little? First of all, don’t wait until the last minute to “wait and see how things go” to hopefully have a better idea what to do! That just won’t happen! The best way to plan Valentine’s Day is to do just that – plan.

If you’re in a non-committed relationship, or one that is new and it’s too soon to tell what’s going to happen, ask your date for ideas on what the two of you might do to celebrate casually. Think about exchanging small gifts or splitting the celebration equally. For example, one of you cooks a fun dinner and the other pays for a movie. Humorous cards are probably better than love notes, or skip the card all together. Rather than heart-shaped box of chocolate, how about a nice Godiva chocolate bar? Most importantly, be honest with yourself and your partner.

Nowadays, many couples are reigning in their spending and many others simply don’t like the commercialism and the “have to” expectation surrounding certain holidays. Valentine’s Day is no exception! If you’re in love but don’t want to be pressured by Valentine’s Day traditional celebrations, such as a romantic dinner at an upscale restaurant, roses, chocolates, and other potentially expensive expressions of love, consider creating your own romantic evening at home. Make it a shared effort, decide ahead of time what you’ll do, and then, do one little thing extra to surprise your mate! Try cooking dinner together, have a champagne toast, candlelight … the things you used to do when you were first dating!

The idea that you must express your love appropriately one day out of the year puts undue pressure and emphasis on February 14. You might think about making the 14th of every month your “Day of Romance”, adding fun and excitement to your relationship while relieving the pressure of one day out of 365 having to be perfect. To make it even more exciting, take turns with planning – so each month one of you is surprised and even delighted. This is a great way to remain “Forever Valentines”.

Regardless of what you decide to do, make it real, make it fun, and don’t wait until the last minute. Decide ahead of time what is comfortable for both of you and be sure to tell your mate/date how you feel. If it’s too much pressure, express your feelings in a gentle way. You’ll probably discover that your partner feels the same way, too. And if not, at least you will have put your cards on the table – Valentine’s Cards, that is!

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Certified Professional Matchmaker & Master Certified Relationship Coach for Singles.
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