Jassy de Jong, author of Drowning, has provided a guest post for readers. You can read it below:
I confess... I love Valentine’s Day.
Some call it over-commercialized. I say that’s just as well. Thank goodness for all those entrepreneurs out there, designing cards with hearts and glitter, and making teddy bears on sticks and ruby pendants and chocolates with red wrappers, and growing long stemmed roses. I mean, what would we give as gifts otherwise? Easter eggs? Pumpkins?
Some call it schmaltzy. Well, what do you expect? It’s a day celebrating love. Soppy, doting, romantic, couply love. It’s all about hand holding, intertwined fingers, long, deep gazes into each other’s eyes. It’s about saying, “You’re so amazing,” and getting the answer, “No, you’re so amazing, and then saying, “I’m so glad I met you,” and hearing, “No, I’m so glad I met you. Here, have some more champagne.”
I googled the origins of Valentine’s Day... I had a confused idea it was something to do with a saint rescuing a lot of animals, which sounded loving and very appropriate for a day filled with so much caring. But I found out I was wrong. The animal rescuer was St. Francis of Assisi and his celebration day is on October 4.
Valentine’s Day doesn’t quite have the romantic roots I hoped it would. The ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia from February 13-15. During this time they sacrificed a goat and a dog, and then, while drunk and naked, whipped the women with the hides of the slaughtered animals. Say what? I’m struggling to see the romance in that. Apparently the women believed that a good beating made them more fertile, so they eagerly lined up for their punishment.
There was a matchmaking lottery as part of the festivities, where names were drawn out of a hat. If the match was right, the couple would get together for the duration of the festival.
Of course, it wouldn’t be ancient Rome if there weren’t some executions involved. History tells us that Emperor Claudius II executed two men, both called Valentine, on February 14th, during different years of his reign. Why on the same day? Who knows? But as a result, the Catholic Church began commemorating this day to honor their martyrdom.
It seems a big leap from whippings and slaughterings, to restaurants with elegantly designed menus featuring oysters, with tables set up for two. But seriously, aren’t we lucky in today’s modern times to be able to unwrap a carefully chosen gift while waiting for our heart shaped chocolate mousse to be served, instead of watching somebody flaying a dead goat before they start flogging us with the skin?
Valentine’s Day. It’s all about gratitude.
Oh, and love, of course.