Happy Valentine’s Day. Every day we honor this powerful emotion, but a holiday that encourages us to pause just long enough to appreciate and celebrate love is priceless. Modern days are complex and wearing; we can all enjoy a special day to stop and share our love with those whom we love.
As a young child, I remember creating beautiful Valentine’s Day cards for everyone I loved: cutting hearts out of pink construction paper, decorating them with white doilies, lot’s of messy Elmer’s Glue and marking pens. On February 14, I would wake excited to receive a beautiful antique Valentine’s Day card from my mother, dress with a touch of red and head off to school with a bag full of my artistic love creations for my friends and teachers.
Last week at CVS as I culled though the valentines and candy for my son Kobe to give out at school, I wondered what was strikingly absent from this holiday? Valentine’s Day merchandise lined the shelves – cards, chocolates, stuffed toys, and party goods – and on the next aisle chocolate Bunnies were already waiting for Easter. I dropped a few boxes of Sponge Bob cards with lollypops into my basket and I must admit, I was pleased to have ‘one more thing off my list’. Over the weekend I asked Kobe to fill out each card. He was a bit bothered by this activity. I knew that despite his impatient penmanship, he would enjoy the valentine card exchange with his classmates. The parents would throw a lovely party at school, the kids would be on a sugar high and my son would be very happy.
Then my daughter texted me that her girlfriends were having a Valentine’s sleep over. She was going to bake cookies. It was all happy and festive, but Valentine’s Day was still missing something. I Googled ‘The origins of Valentine’s Day’ and learned that the Ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia, men sacrificed goats and dogs and whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain; the women lined up for this activity believing that it would make them fertile. There were matchmaking lotteries (an ancient JDate), a priest named Valentine was killed for marrying couples against state law, he was later sainted and a holiday celebrating love was created on February14th becoming Valentine’s Day. Shakespeare romanticized the holiday and in 1913, Hallmark began mass producing valentines. This year’s holiday sales are expected to total $18.6 billion.
Amidst the beautiful jewelry, flowers, pink sweaters, chocolate cupid figurines, meaningful gifts and scrumptious meals on this day of love, the most powerful messages are shared through physical connections: holding hands, hugging and kissing (which I will indulge in all day!) and by the most fundamental part of love: human compassion. I share a most beautiful Valentine’s Day expression -
“Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the concentration camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend.”
Gerda Weissman Klein, a Holocaust Survivor from the Sobibor Camp
Happy Valentines Day.