Laura Lofgren: On the many origins of this day of amore


It looks like it's my turn to talk about Valentine's Day, right? Or, as many of my friends without significant others call it, Singles Awareness Day.

To me, declaring Singles Awareness Day is a fair way to show your detest for a "manufactured holiday."

Maybe you think you don't have anyone to be romantic with because you're in a rut and haven't been dating.

Or maybe you just broke up with someone and that is some bad timing.

Or maybe you've been hurt and want nothing to do with love for as long as you're alive.

'I used to hate this holiday for the same reason other people do today: It's just an excuse for girls to get something stupid expensive from their boyfriends, only to dump them a week later. Or it's the man feeling obligated to buy cards and candy.'

Whatever it is, I still say people should embrace Feb. 14 anyway -- not because you can get/give those awesome sample packs of chocolates or a dozen expensive roses -- but to appreciate the many origins of this day of amore.

According to the Edison Sentinel (,  Valentine's Day dates back to 300 A.D.

Judith Krall-Russo, a food historian and tea specialist interviewed by the Sentinel, said one story takes root in the Roman holiday called Lupercalia, the festival of fertility.

"This is where teenage boys would kill a sheep or a dog and use their skin as strips of leather," Krall-Russo said. "Then they would go around and hit women with this strip of leather. The women would stand there wanting to be hit, hoping for fertility."

Another story involves soldiers who would secretly marry so they could be excused from battle. One was thrown in jail, and the jail-keeper's daughter visited him every day. He sent her a card that read "From your Valentine."

According to a Huffington Post blog ( /XyqBmL), the feast day of St. Valentine originally "honored two, third-century martyrs by the name of Valentine who were elevated to sainthood in the early Middle Ages."

Both Valentines -- one the Bishop of Terni and the other a priest in Rome -- were allegedly decapitated by their persecutors on Feb. 14.

"Incidentally, St. Valentine (as the two Valentines seem to have merged into one figure by the ninth century) is the patron saint of epileptics, not lovers."

I've also read that Chaucer and some scholars associated Valentine's Day with the day on which birds select their mates. There's some science involved in this love debate.

There's also talk of Valentine's Day lotteries held in France. In the 1700s, the "drawing lots" ceremony could get ugly and vicious. Once the Valentines had been chosen, the woman prepared a meal for the man, and the couple attended a public dance. If the man was displeased, he would leave the woman, and she would remain in seclusion for eight days.

Then, in the 1840s and 1850s, Valentine's Day cards flew through the penny post. Some people felt the cards were cheap and as a result the holiday became a mockery for some time.

But, as we know, the day eventually turned into a business for card manufacturers and candy makers. With the hint of love still attached, many entrepreneurs took advantage and created specialized gifts for those wishing to celebrate a day of love.

Today, I've seen people celebrate this weirdly originated holiday in many ways. Some take trips, others buy their lovers luxurious presents of expensive whiskey or maybe a massage.

However you decided/ decide to celebrate Valentine's Day, I hope it's how you want to do it, whether alone, with someone you love, with a pet or with friends.

I used to hate this holiday for the same reason other people do today: It's just an excuse for girls to get something stupid expensive from their boyfriends, only to dump them a week later. Or it's the man feeling obligated to buy cards and candy.

I've let go of loathing the pink and red hearts and the creepy naked cherub babies (OK, maybe the babies still bother me).

But who doesn't love it when, after Valentine's Day, all that candy goes on sale?

I'm still struggling with what to get my boyfriend. I think I have it narrowed down pretty well to something he loves along with something he'd never buy himself.

We're going to dinner at the '6 House in Williamstown and plan on getting snazzy for an opening at the Clark Art Institute on Saturday night. (I finally have a reason to buy a "little black dress"!)

Even if we stayed at home and drank beer and ate candy, I know we'd have an awesome time. This day just calls for us to take a night to splurge on ourselves.

Valentine's Day doesn't have to be a day of lonesomeness or sickening lovey-dovey stuff. It's also a day to show you care about others. So tell your neighbor, your co-worker, your pet, your gran-gran or gramp-gramp, your mum or pops, or even the cashier at the store.

Happy Valentine's Day or Happy Singles Awareness Day for all I care. Just show someone the love.

To reach Laura Lofgren:,
or (413) 496-6229.
On Twitter: @BE_LauraL_


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