Why Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Janis Hunt Johnson
7 min readFeb 12, 2022
Nick Fewings — Unsplash

Are You Against Valentine’s Day?

If so, you’re not the only one. In the movie Valentine’s Day — the February holiday’s answer to Love Actually — there’s a scene in which a heart-shaped piñata is destroyed with gusto at an “I Hate Valentine’s Day” party. It’s a truly satisfactory moment in the story. But I won’t spoil it for you. Whether you love or loathe February 14th, this is the perfect date movie for the both of you.

Women can gather for Galentine’s Day instead, observed on February 13th, a special day to celebrate friendship that’s grown in popularity ever since Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler on Parks and Recreation) invented the holiday to honor her girlfriends by “kicking it breakfast-style” — with personalized gifts and compliments all around.

Where Did St. Valentine’s Day Come From?

There are actually three priests named Valentinus — a popular Latin name meaning “worthy,” as well as “strong” and “healthy” — who lived in third-century Rome, and all of them were martyred around the same time. The prevailing legend is that the man we now call Valentine was a bishop who defied Claudius II, a brutal emperor who had outlawed marriage. Deciding that single men made better soldiers in his army than those with family ties, Claudius decreed it was unlawful to marry. Since Valentine opposed the ruling, he continued to perform marriage ceremonies for couples in secret.

Once Valentine was discovered, he was put behind bars and eventually beheaded. As the story goes, he befriended the jailer’s daughter — some accounts say he performed a miracle, healing her of blindness — and he signed his last letter to her before his death (carried out on the 14th of February), “from your Valentine.”

It was about 200 years later, some historians say, that Pope Gelasius I decided it was time to outlaw the Lupercalia festival — which took place in mid-February to celebrate fertility and sensual pleasures. Festival participants put their names in a jar and hooked up for the duration with the person whose name they drew.

There were also animal sacrifices — including the ritual of women willingly receiving lashes by half-naked men using goat-hide thongs called februa, which is where we get the word February! These carnival couplings were sometimes known to lead to love and marriage. But all this was too much for the pope, who snuffed out this pagan event by replacing it with the relatively tame idea of giving tribute to Saint Valentine.

It wasn’t until the 14th century that Saint Valentine’s Day caught on as an occasion for romance. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a popular poem called Parliament of Foules with the line “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to chees his mate.” So his long reverie — 699 lines of poetry! — about a flock of birds gathered to pair off was the start of the custom of professing love on Valentine’s Day. Some say this is when the idea of writing love letters really took off.

Stux — Pixabay

What about chocolate? Thousands of years ago, chocolate was a drink treasured by the Mayans and the Aztecs, consumed to boost vitality. Chocolate was also believed to work as an aphrodisiac. Sixteenth-century Spaniards brought chocolate home from Mexico, and soon chocolate houses spread across Europe, becoming more trendy than coffee shops.

And where did the idea of giving chocolates in heart-shaped boxes come from? At his British chocolate company, Richard Cadbury came up with the idea of “eating chocolates,” and in 1861 he started selling them in heart-shaped boxes decorated with flowers and cupids. Cupid, of course, is the Roman god of love — Eros in Greek — named from the Latin cupere, meaning “to desire.”

The custom of making and sending cards for Valentine’s Day — between friends, family or lovers — took hold around the 18th century. By the 19th century, printed cards made expressing feelings with loved ones even easier. When I was in elementary school, we would make or buy valentines for all the other kids in the class so no one would be left out. All these years later, I still enjoy making valentines with paper doilies and stickers and Elmer’s.

The Freedom to Marry

But let’s go back to the tale of Saint Valentine, who believed so much in the sanctity of marriage that he gave up his own life to defend it. No matter how cynical some people may be about lasting love, Valentine’s righteous defense of marriage still holds, all these centuries later.

Couples in love keep getting married, especially in June, known as a fine month for weddings — not just for the pleasant weather but today because of two historic milestones that both transpired in June in the not-so-distant past.

It’s a sad fact that interracial marriage was actually unlawful in the United States until June 12, 1967, when the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that Mildred and Richard Loving — yes, that really was their name! — a Black Native American woman and a White American man who had been arrested in Virginia for “unlawful cohabitation” were finally considered to be legally married, and interracial marriage became legal in all 50 states.

It took until June 26, 2015 for the Supreme Court to make same-sex marriage legal across the United States with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. As a result, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur’s marriage in Maryland was deemed legal across the country.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority opinion, said, “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

Whatever the circumstances, every marriage takes solid commitment, unconditional love, constant communication, and a wallop of patience. If you’re having any trouble in your relationship, remember what Jesus taught: “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34) and he even said that we need to love our enemies (see Matthew 5:43–48). So when you fall, give yourself — and your spouse — a break, get back up, and try again. There’s always another way.

The Apostle Paul advised the early Christians in Ephesus: “Be totally humble and gentle; be patient, making allowances for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). As Mary Baker Eddy wrote in the Marriage chapter of her seminal work Science and Health, “If one [spouse] is better than the other, as must always be the case, the other pre-eminently needs good company” (p. 66). That sentence always makes me smile. She went on to say, “Be not in haste to take the vow ‘until death do us part.’ Consider its obligations, its responsibilities, its relations to your growth and to your influence on other lives” (p. 68).

On Valentine’s Day, let’s rejoice in the fact that today in the United States any couple who wants to marry has the freedom to do so. And we can defend their right to marry — without facing a death sentence. Now that’s progress. And pass me that organic dark chocolate bar, please.

Sharon-McCutcheon — Pexels

Full disclosure: With my wedding anniversary coming up this month, I must confess: I’m a hopeless romantic, and positively partial to February.

©2022 Janis Hunt Johnson and CS Renewal Ministries. All rights reserved.

A spiritual author/editor/prayer coach/healer, an interfaith advocate and spiritual activist, my mission is to teach, preach and heal, following Jesus’ example. If you like this piece, please clap for it, pass it on, follow me and subscribe, too!

This was the 38th installment in my Medium series, “Christian Science Redux.” A new version of this piece is a cover story in the Jan./Feb. 2023 issue of Flourish Digital Magazine, for which I am Contributing Editor.

My first bookFive Smooth Stones: Our Power to Heal Without Medicine Through the Science of Prayerwon Finalist, Spirituality category, in the 2010 National Indie Excellence Awards. My upcoming second book is tentatively titled Seven Words to Freedom, Eight Days a Week: The Healing Power of Living Prayer — in which I take a deep dive into the original Hebrew of the Shema and demonstrate its power to heal. For humor and newstalgia,* read my “60-Something” musings. Connect with me on Goodreads, on Twitter @CSRenewal, on Facebook, on Pinterest @CSRenewalMinistries and across cyberspace. #LivingPrayer #EveryDayIsAHoliday

*newstalgia: My word for loving the past with an eye toward a hope-filled future.



Janis Hunt Johnson

Author, 5 Smooth Stones: Our Power to Heal Without Medicine through the Science of Prayer. Transformational Editor. From Chicago to L.A., now in Pacific NW.