We know that Valentine’s Day has been observed for over five hundred years, but there is evidence that it has been associated with lovers from as early as 269 A.D.
February 15th was an ancient pagan holiday that represented spring (February fell in springtime in the Julian Calendar, which was used before the 16th century). The pagans held a festival on February 15th to celebrate spring and wish fertility upon plants, animals and humans. Christians, unable to stop people from celebrating the pagan holiday, renamed it Valentine’s Day, changed the date to February 14th, and made the occasion a celebration of Christian martyrs.
In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day has been observed since the 1400’s. One British custom was for single women to write several men’s names on different pieces of paper, cover the papers with clay and drop them into water. The first name to rise to the surface was the woman’s supposed true love. In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Shakespeare writes about the occasion by saying:
“Saint Valentine’s is past; begin these woodbirds but to couple now?”
The kiss as we know it today was invented by medieval knights for the purpose of trying to determine whether their wives were drinking alcohol while the men were away in the Crusades.
“We don’t believe in rheumatism and true love until after the first attack” Marie Ebner von Eschenbach.
All of this is to suggest that we have come a long way in how we view the occasion of Valentine’s Day now. Whether you have been married a long time, or are newlyweds, lovers, hopeful lovers or even school children, Valentine’s Day has become a symbol of love, caring and romance that is observed by millions of people the world over.
On the occasion of this Valentine’s Day, if you would like to strengthen or enrich your relationship with someone that you care about, try the following exercise, borrowed from Lori Gordon in the book Passage to Intimacy.
What behaviors does your partner do, or could do, to give you pleasure, delight you, excite you, help you to be happy, make your life better, and to communicate to you that you are cared about and valued? Both of you write as many answers down on paper as you can. Be specific. Don’t say, “I want you to love me.” Indicate which behaviors tell you that you are loved.
Some examples might be: hold me in the morning before we get up; wash my hair; call me during the day; give me loving cards or notes; initiate sex; bring me flowers on special occasions, and so on.
When you have finished your lists, post them where both of you can read them. Then, during the next week, do at least two things on your partner’s list every day. As an added bonus, have a surprise list where you can spontaneously surprise your partner with things you’ve privately noted he or she would like.
At the end of each day, acknowledge and thank your partner for what he or she did. At the end of the week, talk to each other about the behaviors and how they make a difference in your relationship.
“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness” —Bertrand Russell.