In modern popular culture, Valentine’s Day is the day of hearts and flowers, a celebration of idealized romantic love. Store aisles overflow with candy boxes, stuffed animals, and balloons in pink, red, and white. Restaurants are packed with couples, some feeling obligated to come up with the grandest gesture or greatest marriage proposal.
The tides have shifted in the last few years - more on that later - but what is it about Valentine’s Day that creates the big to-do about lovers, partners, and spouses? As we saw in part 1, the connection to the ancient Roman festival Lupercalia is questionable at best, but we know a bit more about the Christian saint for which Valentine’s Day is named, and the traditions thereof. Let’s dive in there.
A saint’s devotion
It may be little surprise that there is variance in St. Valentine’s history, given what we’ve already seen. Historians have verified with some certainty that he was a clergyman in the first or second century CE - some legends say a priest, others a bishop. In either case, these stories credit him with unshakable faith and demonstrations of behavior to show universal love to others.
In his later years, Valentine lived under constant scrutiny; Christianity remained illegal in most of Rome, yet he steadfastly continued evangelizing. Chronicles of the time variously state that he:
Valentine was martyred on February 14 in about 270 CE; in 496, Pope Gelasius declared the day a celebration of his martyrdom.
A different sort of love
By now, you may have noticed that romantic love was at best incidental to Valentine’s actions. In fact, his true commitment was to his faith and bringing others into his religion. The saint’s association with romance appears to have come from folk tradition across Christianized Europe.
This was solidified in English literature in the late 1300s, when Chaucer affiliated the mating of birds near St. Valentine’s Day with declarations of love by people. Shakespeare’s Ophelia, too, declared herself Hamlet’s Valentine a few centuries later.
Over the centuries thereafter, Valentine’s Day became known as the time to declare one’s undying romantic love, often with poetry and drawings. With industrialization in the 1800s, this evolved into mass-printed greeting cards filled with overly expressive verse and art.
The rest, as they say, is profit. Florists and confectioners learned that red roses and heart-shaped chocolates sold best in February; today, entire industries center around the supposed ideals of modern romantic love.
But inevitably, pop culture continues to evolve. The free-love 1960s gave way to millions of left-out people declaring “I hate Valentine’s Day,” or at least reconsidering what love can really mean. Since the 2000s began, that increasingly means compassionate love: caring for family of choice or origin, helping other people, even treating oneself well. Thanks to a popular TV sitcom, February 13 is now commonly celebrated as “Galentine’s Day” - originally intended to honor friendships between women, but now expanded to include any sort of friends.
Our most important takeaway: love doesn’t have to be romantic to be real. The affection and consideration we show our best friends, our teachers, our belief community, the land we live on, our pets, even a coworker - all of it is essential for us to grow and thrive as humans.
We hope you’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day in a way that means the most to you and those you love! Whether you’re in love with love or more of a skeptic, come see the team at Indigo Moons for generous gifts with a spiritual vibe - even if it’s all about loving yourself.
Susan (aka the Dragonfly Charmer) is an Indigo Moons staff member and an intuitive reader with over 25 years of experience. She also teaches Tarot classes at the shop. Susan is proud to announce the launch of her Patreon, Dragonfly Academy, as of February 1. Visit her Linktree for all the other places you can find her.
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