The truth about Valentine’s Day
Quick quiz: “What is the origin of Valentine’s Day?” Wrong.
Its true history is shrouded in confusion. There are many differing accounts of up to three different saints, in three different places and times, all named Valentine, who may or may not be the celebrated Valentine. There is also a legend of a possible attempt by the church to Christianize a pagan holiday. No one can really say for sure, but regardless, it’s now a day about showing love in its many forms to those around you.
Romantic love was first associated with the day in the 14th century. Esther Howland receives credit for first mass producing Valentine’s cards in America in 1847. In 1868, Richard Cadbury sold the first Valentine’s Day box of chocolates, followed in 1902 with the first ‘conversation’ hearts from the New England Confectionery Company and by the 1980s the diamond industry was pushing to make it a day for exchanging jewelry.
As a child in the early 80s, I felt obligated to get a valentine for everyone in my class because we had all decorated a bag or box for just such a purpose. I was trying not to leave anyone out because I didn’t want to be left out. Love for me then was a form of affirmation; affirming that those kids were important to me. It wasn’t until I got older that love turned romantic.
My guess is that whoever your valentine is, that person is very special and you want them to feel loved. It can be so easy to fall back on what the valentine industry tells you to do: buy flowers, candy, cards, etc., but what does your valentine really want or need?
Traditionally, celebrations are centered on only one way of showing love, gift-giving, and even though I don’t think anyone would reject a gift on this day the truth is, there are at least four other ways to show someone you love them; affirmation, quality time, acts of service and physical touch. These are called “love languages” by Gary Chapman who has authored a book on the subject. If you are heaping gifts on someone who truly feels loved through affirmation, you’re not loving her in a way that makes her feel most loved.
True love speaks the language that can best be understood by the receiver, not the speaker. What is that for your valentine? Do you know? Jesus teaches us that real love is sacrificial. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4.19). Instead of just expecting your valentine to conform to your way of expressing yourself, why don’t you focus on his or her way of receiving love? At least in this way you will build deep bonds through selflessness rather than selfishly fulfilling temporary desires.
God spoke love in a form we could understand. His son, Jesus, came and sacrificed himself for us to know his great love for us and how to truly love each other. This is the model I encourage you to follow. Sacrifice yourself for your valentine. Make her time more valuable than your own. Make his needs more important than your own. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to fight over who gets to love the other one more, instead of who gets their way?
This Valentine’s Day I encourage you to rise above the culture and yourself to bless your valentine in the way they best receive love. Truly, regardless of its origin, this day is about loving the other person. Don’t forget that fact. This day is about someone else. We can love them because we were first shown love. Meditate on the words of 1 Corinthians 13 and check yourself against them. As a practical exercise sometime, replace the word “love” with your first name and see if you measure up, or where you need to improve.
Love is patient; love is kind.
Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about.
There’s no arrogance in love;
It’s never rude, crude, or indecent— it’s not self-absorbed.
Love isn’t easily upset.
Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice;
But truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight!
Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along;
It trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what.
Love will never become obsolete.