It’s February and love is in the air! You’ve heard the term, “it was a labor of love,” right? It means that something was done out of joy, and not for any type of reward other than the satisfaction of having done it.
Think about caring for a sick friend by dropping off their favorite soup. Or baking cookies for the elderly person down the street. Or offering to babysit for a parent who could use a few hours to themselves. These are all things that we may choose to do that take effort on our part, but we do them out of LOVE for the person for whom it is done, and nothing more. That’s what makes it a labor of love.
Well, finding out a few interesting tidbits about Valentine’s Day was a labor of love from me to all of you because it took a little digging. And some of what I found out about Valentine’s Day wasn’t so lovely. Without completing a full-fledged literature review, here are 3 interest things I discovered about the origins of Valentine’s Day.
One account claims that Valentine’s Day was observed as part of a romantic festival in ancient Rome when young men would sacrifice a dog and a goat, skin the animals, and whip women with the skins. And women would actually line up for this ritual because it was thought that the beating would ensure fertility. AND… everyone was naked. Okaaay.
Then, there are several martyrdom stories associated with various men named Valentine connected to February 14th, including an account of the imprisonment of Saint Valentine of Rome for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire in the third century. An 18th-century embellishment to the legend claims he wrote the jailer's daughter a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell before his execution. I’m just guessing here, but perhaps this is how we’ve come to declare our “undying love for someone.”
Finally, I most enjoyed reading about this transition from early Valentine’s Day history to present day. In 18th-century England, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). Valentine's Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. In Italy, Saint Valentine's Keys are given to lovers "as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver's heart.