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The True Meaning of Valentine's Day

I have loved Valentines Day since I was very little. My mom had covered a large Birk’s Blue Box ( who remembers these?) with pretty pink and red heart wrapping paper. Each year on February 1st, she would bring it out and put it on our coffee table. Every day for two weeks our mailman delivered cards from friends and family far away. I would add to it the cards I made at school for my parents and the cute little cards from my classmates.

By February 14th, the box was full, and we would open and share what was written in the cards. There may have been chocolate, but I don’t remember it. It was the beautiful cards and written words that I loved. Part ritual, and perhaps partly because February is a very cold month here in Canada, I still love having Valentines Day to look forward to. For me, it remains a celebration of friends and family and a sharing of love and affection for each other. I start looking forward to it in the beginning of January!

My mother also kept boxes of all the old family cards. The oldest family letters were in a box marked "Precious." Inside I treasured the beautiful old script on letters of brotherly love written to my grandmother when her brothers had gone to war and later moved away. There were letters from family and friends who elegantly shared their emotions of love and friendship. I loved the cards that portrayed Cupid as a naked cherub launching arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers. Later I would learn that the Roman God Cupid has his roots in Greek mythology as the Greek god of love, Eros.

My family was carrying on the interesting history of Valentines traditions that date back hundreds of years. Valentine’s Day is not an imaginary holiday made-up by modern day advertising agencies and greeting card companies. My mother’s family was Catholic, and at the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day. Saint Valentine's Day was a feast day in the Catholic religion, added to the liturgical calendar around 500 AD. The day was commemorated for martyred saints named Valentine. Because of differing legends, conflicting reports, and limited knowledge of the Saint Valentine Day story, this feast day was removed from the Christian liturgical calendar in 1969.

My favourite childhood legend of St. Valentine came in a book my uncle had and he told the story that Saint Valentine was a Roman priest who performed weddings for young men who were being prevented from marrying because the Roman emperor decreed married soldiers did not make good warriors. Saint Valentine wore a ring with a Cupid on it to help the young men recognize him so they could marry and not go to war. The theme of “Make Love, Not War” was popular centuries before the 1960’s revolution! Because of this legend, St. Valentine became known as the patron saint of love. This was reinforced when medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem called "Parliament of Fowls" that contains this line: “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate.”

Chaucer lived in the the era of courtly love, when romantic statements of devotion as poems, songs, and paintings celebrated love. Soon, the word "valentine" was being used to describe a lover in poems and songs of that era.

By the middle of the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes on Valentine's Day. By 1900 printed cards began to appear.

If you're trying to figure out what to do on Valentine's Day, know that there are no rules! Celebrate the day of love however you want: self-love, love of friends and family, love of a partner.

I love to encourage you to love, date and celebrate yourself! You are the person you spend your whole life with! Take yourself to your favourite cafe, bring one of my journals, and answer the questions as if you were talking to the love of your life. And then, do that, become the love of your life. The more you love yourself, the more love you have for others. Check my journals out here!




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