St. Valentine’s Day, you gotta love it
by Jack Taylor
Okay, I have to admit that I’m a hopeless romantic. I proposed to my girl at the exact minute when we’d been officially dating for 24,000 hours. It was 1976, we were watching the sunset from the side of Burnaby Mountain, sitting in my parked 1973 blue Valiant (in the front seat in case you’re wondering). She said yes. We’ll soon celebrate 40 years of marriage.
During those 24,000 hours of courting, and a lot of times since, on Valentine’s Day we have shared cards, chocolates, flowers, dinners and kisses. My cards are just a few of the hundreds of millions that get sold annually on this continent; my dollars a few of the half a billion spent; my chocolates a dozen of the 58 million pounds. Men spend twice as much on this holiday as women.
February 14 also seems to be a special day for jewellery, with engagements often a significant milestone. For example, my friend Wayne Durand took his girlfriend Lynn to “a favourite Vancouver beach on Valentine’s Day. It was dark and blustery and yet there were a handful of hardy individuals roaming around. I dragged Lynn out near the water’s edge and impatiently waited for the few stragglers still around to leave. Once we were finally alone, I got down on one knee and asked Lynn to marry me. We carved our initials in a log we were using as a windbreaker and began planning our wedding.”
Celebrating Valentine’s Day can take a creative twist. Try fortune cookies made out of red fruit roll-ups – perhaps with a romantic message inside on paper; red heart-shaped ice cubes set off in a favourite drink; balloons and breakfast in bed – heart shaped pancakes with strawberries and whip cream; an old romantic movie with pink popcorn; a special poem, prayer or love song written in your Valentine’s Day card; heart shaped pepperoni pizza slices; a tour of the 110 year old Purdy’s Chocolate factory with choice selections after; a special story; a special song…
About 62 per cent of us will celebrate this day in some way. In the 15th Century cards began to be distributed. The oldest existing Valentine card dates to 1415 when Charles, the Duke of Orleans, wrote a poem to his wife after his capture and imprisonment in the Tower of London. Several years later, King Henry V hired a writer to produce a card for a woman he loved. Americans exchanged handmade Valentines soon after 1700. In the 1840’s cards began to be produced en masse and the transformation of the day was underway. Now, next to Christmas, this is a huge sales day for card makers, candy makers, florists, jewellers, clothing designers and any creative entrepreneur. Valentine’s Day isn’t celebrated everywhere, but the United Kingdom, the United States, Mexico, France, Australia and Canada seem to be the most common countries to recognize a day of love.
Tradition varies on the origin of Valentine’s Day. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different martyred saints known as Valentine. One of the stories speaks of a priest who secretly married couples during the reign of Emperor Claudius. This was an offense because the Emperor had outlawed marriage, considering that single men served his army better without the distraction of waiting family members.
Another tradition holds that Valentine was martyred on February 14, 270 AD because he refused to worship Roman deities or because he helped Christians escape from Roman prisons. Another speaks of how Valentine, on the night before his martyrdom, sent a letter to a young girl who visited him during his own imprisonment – he signed it “from your Valentine.” What made this so special is that he had previously healed this girl who had been blind. Pope Gelasius may have replaced a pagan festival by declaring February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day in the 5th Century. It became a day to declare your love, your belief and your sacrifice.
Whether you’re in pre-school giving out your first paper hearts and sucking on your first candy sweethearts; whether you’re exploring the tastes of first love or recovering from the heartache of lost love; or whether you’re flipping through pictures of Valentine’s Day past, this day somehow reminds us of those we love and leaves us grateful for those who love us.
Jack Taylor is Senior Pastor of Vancouver’s Faith Fellowship Baptist Church. He was a youth leader there before marrying Gayle. They became missionaries in Kenya in 1981, for 18 years. Jack returned to Faith Fellowship in a pastoral role in 1999. He is a published author and regular contributor to The Light Magazine.