The holiday of Valentine’s Day is believed to commemorate the death of Christian martyr Valentinus whose obscure, unverified identity and role in history has lead to new conclusions that the holiday was the result of a decree by Pope Gelasius I to replace, rather than ban, the Roman pagan festival of Lupercalia with a day to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus. Lupercalia festivities, usually held between February 13th to the 15th, involved cleansing ceremonies of the city of Rome to avert evil spirits while at the same time release spirits to encourage fertility and health. Joyous festivities were also held to commemorate the holiday.
Thanks to the publishing of Geoffrey Chaucer’s 1382 book Parlement of Foules, the idea of romantic love associated with Valentine’s Day came about along with the assumption that the Lupercalia pagan rituals were used to commemorate the holiday at that time as well. During the Medieval period, (most notably in France) Valentine’s Day would be associated with social gatherings of love and courtship rituals usually involving the reading of poetry. Interest in Valentine’s Day took hold again in the 19th Century but his time as a holy day. It later became secularized with enhanced commercialism in the form of the exchange of greeting cards that had hearts or with messages of love and affection.
Gifts of chocolates, roses and (in later years) even jewelry became available as Valentine’s Day gifts enhanced the holiday’s commercial appeal then like these facets do so today.Fortunately, the main reason why we celebrate Valentine’s Day today is no longer pietistic. We use the occasion to commemorate mankind’s most selfish emotion: love.
Yet we are repeatedly reminded by many people (such as those in academia, media, clergy and celebrities) of how selfless or altruistic love is. Nothing could be further from the truth. Love itself is our most selfish emotion. When you love someone it is purely to satisfy your ego and not out of superfluous sacrifice. You value a particular person since they make your life better and, by your standards, the special someone in your life gives you such joy. The person you love is such a pleasure to be around that you invest time and money on them in order to enhance your relationship.
The time and effort I put into my relationships because my friend’s happiness is important to my own. This past weekend I had the opportunity to have lunch with a female friend whom I gave gifts of chocolates and flowers in which I got enormous pleasure doing so. I value her friendship selfishly and giving her gifts as an expression of my affection for her elates my ego and self-esteem. If my actions were sacrificial they would be for someone whom I did not value or know. Even someone I resented, hated or was in a relationship with that was demanded or expected of me by family, friends or some sort of collective expectation. Every expression towards those you love is also a mutual trade between two people for reciprocal advantage and to regard love as sacrificial or altruistic makes it (and the relationships that result) pointless if not outright contemptible.
Love does place certain expectations on those who engage in it and for someone to expect love because one demands it or out of a sense of duty is parasitic and nonsensical. Like respect, love is earned and not given. With the commercialism, sweets and sex-appeal that is associated with Valentine’s Day this a time for you to to celebrate the selfish pleasure of being in a relationship and exchanging gifts of love and affection with that special someone who has fallen in love with you.
Relish in the selfish pleasures of love and freedom Valentine’s Day brings and symbolizes since it represents the selfishness of love.
Happy Valentine’s Day!