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Tuesday, February 1,2011

"All You Need is Love"

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  

"All You Need is Love"
(Can I say that now that the Beatles are on i-Tunes?)

The history of Valentine’s Day is not without debate. There are several versions floating around and all admit they are not certain. There are a few commonly accepted stories, however. We do know that there was a Roman priest in the third century A.D. who defied the orders of then Roman Emperor Claudius II by conducting illegal marriages. At the time, the Roman Empire was nearing the end of its glorious 200 year heyday Pax Romana and Claudius, fearing the impending doom, needed to maintain a strong standing army to defend against all of the outsiders who stood in line to invade the most prosperous empire on the planet. Drafting married men was already illegal in the empire, thus, believing young single men would be most fit to serve, Claudius made it illegal for young men to marry. A dissenting priest named Valentine defied the emperor’s orders and continued to marry young lovers. He was jailed and later sentenced to death. This is where the story gets a little cloudy, as there are no records written about what really happened. Legend has it that during his time in jail, Valentine fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and on the eve of his beheading wrote her a love note, signing it “Your Valentine,” a line that is now used more widely than perhaps even Merry Christmas. In 500 A.D. the Pope declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day - a day to honor the spirit of Valentine by behaving like him and celebrating love. Again, it gets sticky here because there is more than one story and there are even three different St. Valentine’s that are debated. In addition, the celebration of Valentine’s Day which more closely resembles the current embodiment of the holiday really began in the Middle Ages during the height of the chivalrous knights with all of their poetry, flowers and ballads. Nonetheless, there was a man who, in the name of love, protested the authority of his government in antiquity’s version of our "Make Love not War" Vietnam Era.

That being said, I would like to propose that Valentine’s Day is a secular holiday. This may seem like a tall order for a holiday that invokes the name of a Saint, but I think the 1500 years that have passed since the holiday’s first declaration, coupled with its universal message of love and friendship, make this a safely universal holiday. The original Cardinal Valentine may have been a martyr for the Catholic faith, but his actions were purely and simply to honor love. And if the Yin to Yang’s Love is Hate, then why not open the flood gates to a holiday that promotes love and have us all partake? I declare (and I’m sure Hallmark and many other retailers would agree) that a holiday in the name of love is something we can all benefit from. And if you, like many, feel that you and Your Valentine do not need yet another store-bought commodity to understand how much you mean to each other, then why not take the amount you might have spent on each other, and spread the love by using the money to help another person who is not as fortunate as you? Not ready to walk away from your own gift just yet? Why not purchase Fair Trade chocolates or conflict-free diamonds ( and give to each other while also giving to others. Purchase the Hope for Haiti album on i-Tunes and listen to it together over a candle lit dinner. It would be like a twofor-one Valentine’s present: you get to share your love with each other and with the world!


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