Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day Anyway?
The candy. The flowers. The dinners, dancing, movies, snuggles, and jewelry. Valentine’s Day is really something else, right? I don’t know about you, but I like it! I have fun showing my husband, friends, and family that I’m thinking of them with little treats and notes. Plus, the event gives me an excuse to make my husband take me out to a fancy dinner.
But I do wonder about where it all started. Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?
I did some digging so you don’t have to. Here’s what I learned.
A Not-So-Romantic History
According to History.com, there are actually a number of legends and historical events that may have contributed to the heart-shaped holiday. However, the legend of St. Valentine of Terni is perhaps the most likely source of all the romance.
Back in the day (we’re talking Ancient Rome back) there was an Emperor named Claudius II that believed men couldn’t be good soldiers if they were married. Claudius mandated that all single men had to serve in his army. St. Valentine, the bishop of Terni, didn’t want to see all those young men die in battle, so he started performing weddings for soldiers who were otherwise forbidden to marry in order to save them from war.
Claudius wasn’t all that happy about Valentine using his marriage-based powers to skirt his law. So, he had the Bishop beheaded. Told you, it’s not a very romantic story!
The romance does come into play a bit in that Valentine (before he was beheaded) wore a ring with Cupid on it to help soldiers in need find him. He also used to hand out paper hearts to remind his partitioners that God loved them—sort of like an ancient Hallmark greeting card. Because of his martyrdom, Cupid ring, and greeting card habit, St. Valentine became known as the patron saint of love.
That’s why we call it Valentine’s Day!
But how did we get from a beheaded bishop to a holiday for romance? That was all Geoffrey Chaucer. A famous medieval author, Chaucer started using the word “valentine” to describe a lover in books, songs and poems, and it caught on. By the mid-1800s, we had Valentine's cards popping up all over the place.
Do You Celebrate Valentine’s Day? Should You?
No matter where the holiday began, it’s very much a commercial beast now. So much so that lots of people reject the whole thing entirely. I can understand that impulse—you don’t need a fancy card from Papyrus or a box of cardboard-like chocolates from CVS to show your loved ones that you care.
But, as reported by Insider, celebrating Valentine’s Day is actually good for our health.
Physical affection, saying or hearing “I love you” or “I’m thankful for you”, giving and receiving gifts, and spending quality time with loved ones are proven to have benefits for our minds and bodies like:
- Reduced stress
- Greater overall life satisfaction
- Increased positivity
- Lower risk of getting sick
- Increased levels of Oxytocin (the love hormone)
- Lowered levels of Cortisol (the stress and fear hormone)
While you don’t need to give in to commercialism and buy everyone you know a Valentine's card, you should at least find a way to celebrate that works with your needs and preferences. Be it a dinner with your friends, flowers for your boo, candy for your mom, or even a self-care date with yourself, Valentine’s Day is worthwhile.
If not for yourself, do it for poor, headless St. Valentine.