Love, Chocolate, and Lupercalia (aka: Valentine’s Day)

Love love love 

You guessed it – I am a Valentine’s Day hater. Okay, not really.  Because deep beneath the surface, I am a hopeless romantic who grows weak-kneed at tales of true love, candlelit dinners, and moonlit walks. But on the outside, I look at holidays like Valentine’s day through a scornful and cynical eye. When I scan through the Facebook posts and Tweets of other people, I am amazed and somewhat disgusted by some of the posts I read. “I swear, he’d better have roses and chocolate for me when he comes home…”  For reals? Since when was it a romantic gesture to receive a gift which you demanded? Isn’t it really just a fulfillment of your shopping list?

meh

 

Ugh. Well, instead of turning this into a full-blown rant against commercialism and narcissism, I decided to try taking a different turn this year, by sharing some of the positive aspects of St. Valentine’s Day from history. You see, there was this Christian guy named Valentinus who was martyred in Rome in the 3rd century. Apparently, he wrote a note to the blind daughter of his jailer just before he was executed, and signed it, Your Valentine. Hence, at some point down the line, it became popular to give love notes signed Your Valentine. Because apparently, we’re all going to be executed on February 15th. How romantic.

Of course, before this, the Roman festival of Lupercalia was celebrated around Valentine’s Day. And – well, those crazy Romans – they celebrated by sacrificing goats and a dog, then stripping their hides. Then they ran around smacking women with the hides, in order to make them fertile.

The heck?

Stephen Colbert Discusses Lupercalia

I give up. There are so many ridiculous traditions, both in modern times as well as ancient. But through the ages, with the possible exception of Lupercalia, there is one common thread that is the saving grace of St. Valentine’s Day. Love. Yes, the main focus is usually on romantic or erotic love, but I tell my kids that it’s also a great day to focus on loving your friends and family, too.
Charlie Brown Snoopy Valentines

And so today, instead of passing on my bitter cynicism to the next generation, I am celebrating Valentine’s Day by loving my kids. Here is what they will find when they return home from school today:
Strawberry Cake and Candy

They will also learn that I have already done their chores for them, so that they may begin the weekend free. Now that is love. No martyrdom required.

 

 

Sunrise Surprises (aka Bringing Easter to the Neighbors)

The kids and I woke up very early on Easter morning. Earlier than the birds. Earlier than the Easter Bunny. Possibly earlier than the women who discovered Jesus’ empty tomb. But most importantly, we woke up earlier than our neighbors. Then we set out for a stroll around our block, armed with a big basket full of colorful spring flowers. Every now and then, we stopped in front of a neighbor’s house, picked out a pot of flowers, and left it on the doorstep.

What was the point of our early morning adventure? My seven year-old summed it up beautifully. “People are going to find these flowers when they wake up, and they’ll be so surprised and happy!” Exactly. Giving flowers to someone, especially when the person does not expect it, is a simple way to show someone love. And so today, we chose to show love to our neighbors, even to some we do not yet know. We will not get to see their reactions, but I hope that at least a few will smile. And I hope that they all have a very Happy Easter.

Happy Easter to the grumpy woman next door, who yells at my kids when they accidentally kick a ball over her fence. Happy Easter to the elderly woman who walks her dog around the block every day (and who caught us leaving flowers on her porch this morning). Happy Easter to the family with the whiny little boy who comes over our house nearly every day and makes huge messes. Happy Easter to the neighbors who have lived next door forever and who once left a basket of pumpkin muffins on my doorstep one autumn afternoon ten years ago (yes, I knew it was you). A very happy Easter to all of our neighbors, including the ones whom we have not yet met. May you be blessed by our gift of flowers.