Valentine’s Day this year begins a weekend of love and friendship. Friday, February 14th will no doubt have special occasions and events commemorating love.
The day was originally associated with the Christian Church and Saint Valentinius, a priest that served a Roman congregation. He was executed in 269 CE for doing his work and in addition, performing weddings for Roman soldiers that were not supposed to marry.
It was not until the next century that Christianity came into its own headed by the Roman Church. Emperor Constantine, converted to Christianity in 312 CE, began the process of making it the official religion of the realm.
After that and especially after the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, the European Christian Church became part of the imperial political power structure. Almost two centuries later in 496 CE, the deeds of the martyred Saint Valentinius were revisited and February 14th was set as the day to recognize him and celebrate his work.
Some 900 years afterwards in the 15th Century, the poets got involved and projected the notion of human love as the basis for the holiday. I remember reading with great difficulty Geoffrey Chaucer and John Donne in old English about this and other subjects in a required class at the University of Denver.
I did not know then that one of the great rhymes we repeated as children was part of that transition to love in the human family. Most of you may remember the rhyme:
“Roses are red, violets are blue
The honey is sweet and so are you
Thou are my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine
The lot was cast and there I drew
And fortune said it should be you.”
This poem by Gammer Gurton Garland published in 1784 was part of a collection of children rhymes that has endured the test of time. As children I am sure that we did not repeat all of the poem including the “thou” and the “thine.”
Instead, we mostly repeated the first line and then added our own material to sometimes humorous and insulting effect. After all, we were in elementary school and boys and girls were not supposed to like each other.
Today, Valentine’s Day is part of our commercial cycle. There are heart-shaped items to be bought and sold.
The boxes of chocolates, the cards and the cute animals abound. I particular like coffee cups with Snoopy portrayed on the outside and being himself.
Snoopy also is sold as a stuffed animal with his eyes peering out of the cup. Peanuts, in addition, has characters like Charlie Brown, Linus and others portraying love as part of human interaction in their stories.
For many, the expression of love is a right of passage. That right is amplified among love ones.
The country desperately needs a “Valentine’s Day” as the expression of love and friendship can help heal the division in our land. There is much to do to bring people together.
We are in an election season and the passions are running high for and against our political candidates. However, we seem to take those passions to the extreme of being for and against each other.
Perhaps it is time to do something different in this regard. Maybe we can seek and add a friend in celebration of the holiday.
If we all took the time to do that we could make major inroads in changing our divided country. Happy Valentine’s Day.