1) HISTORY: This holiday has no clear origin but a lot of interesting mythology surrounding it. Ancient Romans observed a fertility celebration on February 15th (think "Spin the Urn" in TOGAS!) and there are no less than THREE Christian saints named Valentine, ALL of whom were (impossibly) reported to have been martyred on February 14th. The most often cited and entertaining of the legends involves one of these men, who was supposedly imprisoned by Claudius II for continuing to perform marriages after they had been outlawed (Claudius thought married men made bad soldiers, the old softie!). While in prison, the future saint befriended his jailer, who had a blind daughter; Valentine miraculously restored her vision. The story goes that before he was executed, he sent her a letter and signed it "from your Valentine". Valentine's Day was later popularized as a romantic holiday by the poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the Middle Ages. Pretty cool, huh?
2) DECORATIONS: Like I mentioned, both of my parents enjoyed a celebration and my Mom decorated the house for every holiday, a tradition I carry on today. Having spent the majority of my life in the Northeast means February is about as bleak as it gets…nothing like some hearts and flowers and perk up the joint and add color and festivity to our surroundings!
3) MEMORIES: Part of our celebration growing up were little gifts my Dad would buy for all his girls; Mom did the vast majority of the shopping, so it was always a special treat when he picked something out himself. I remember all of them fondly and still have a heart shaped, rose-scented candle he gave me when I was a teenager. I also have wonderful memories of Valentine’s Day celebrations at school; one particularly noteworthy year in elementary school, we each constructed and decorated a train “car” out of construction paper and our teacher hung the train up on the wall, where we could deposit cards into each other’s creations. In high school they used to sell white, pink and red carnations as a fundraiser; the white carnations were for friends, the pink carnations were meant to express an interest in being more than friends and the red carnations were for sweethearts. I never actually got a pink or red carnation, but there was something so fun and exciting about the idea that I might! Like, remember the pure joy and optimism of Charlie Brown when he shows up in school on Valentine’s Day with a BRIEFCASE to carry all the Valentines he might get home? Speaking of which…
4) BE MY VALENTINE, CHARLIE BROWN: this first and obviously superior Peanuts special about Valentine’s Day NEVER gets old. If you have not watched this in many years (or at all???) I urge you to revisit it. Linus is infatuated with his teacher Miss Othmar, Charlie Brown’s hope for love springs eternal and Snoopy is…well, SNOOPY. You can’t go wrong with that. Frankly, just to hear Linus yell, “This one is for Elizabeth Barrett Browning!” as he chucks chocolates over a bridge is worth the price of admission. And on the topic of chocolate:
5) CANDY: Candy, candy, candy. Remember when you were a kid and candy was like MANNA from HEAVEN??? And then you grow up and start to think of candy as “the enemy”? Let me reassure you about something: unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating candy, candy is NOT your enemy. Candy can be a nice little treat you give yourself at the end of the day, and if you stop thinking about it as your enemy, you might stop using it as a weapon against your body and self-esteem, right? Why not befriend candy? And what better time than Valentine’s to do that?
6) FRIENDSHIP: Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, but it doesn’t have to be the romantic kind! When I was living in New York after college, I went out for an extravagant dinner with two of my girlfriends at Chez Josephine (it’s still there! http://www.chezjosephine.com/ YOU could go!) We got all dressed up--I wore a black velvet dress and a crushed velvet hat—and ate decadent food and laughed and complimented each other all night. Then we went home and ate ice cream, of course!!! Sorry, guys…the ladies win for the best Valentine’s date I EVER had!!! Another time I cut out a bunch of hearts and taped them all over my roommate’s door to surprise her when she woke up…isn’t that adorable (ANNOYING)??? I still like to send cards and little gifts to friends and family to say I love you and I’m glad you are in my life. Lucky me!
7) MONEY: Okay, this one is a stretch for most, but Valentine’s Day does NOT need to be expensive to be fun. My husband is in the hospitality business, so he has worked more Valentine’s Day than not in the 20 years we have been together. The bright side? This means we have NEVER paid jacked up prices for a meal out on February 14th…we would just go out the day before or after at normal prices. The year after our son was born he had changed jobs and moved early to start work, leaving me home alone with a dog, a baby who rarely slept more than a few hours at a time and a house that needed to be kept immaculate because it was on the market. Yes, that WAS as much fun as you are imagining right now! Because I was alone (with a dog and a cranky baby) for the holiday, he decided to order me a big, elaborate bouquet from OverpricedFlowers.com (or something like that)…but they NEVER CAME. Imagine my surprise when my heroic efforts received no acknowledgment on Valentine’s Day; imagine HIS surprise when his romantic gesture was apparently not appreciated. We quickly figured out what had gone wrong and made a pact then and there…no more ordering flowers at jacked up prices for a particular date, when affordable flowers are available most of the year.
It's okay, Jason! You can kill people ANY day of the year!