29 January 2018
Valentine's Day is a time to celebrate romance and love...usually. But the origins of this celebration are far from kisses and chocolate hearts. In fact, they are dark, bloody and full of strange sacrificial celebrations. The Romans used to celebrate the feast of Lupercalia* between 13th and 15th February. After sacrificing a goat, the woman would line up to be whipped by the men, believing this made them more fertile. Followed by matchmaking. Emperor Claudius II executed two men, both called Valentine, on 14th February of different years. One of which was arrested and executed for refusing to renounce his faith and Christianity. Records tell stories of him secretly marrying couples so husbands wouldn't have to go to war. He refused to sacrifice to pagan gods and was imprisoned and while there, healed the jailer's daughter of blindness. On the day of the execution, he left the girl a note signed, "Your Valentine."
Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticised these stories in their work and throughout time the day became symbolic with romance and love.
Nowadays, we probably don't want to go to the macabre lengths our dear Saints or indeed the Romans went to in order to celebrate romance. But how about reframing the way we celebrate Valentine's Day? Rather than being about "romance", we use the day as an opportunity to tell someone we care about how much they are appreciated. Even if you aren't romantically involved, is there someone who you just "appreciate"? We all deserve sincere gratitude and putting that appreciation into words offers kindness that can lift another person's spirits. Instead of making it about "me", make it about them..."What I appreciate about you..." "I like you because of..." "I love you because..." You get the idea. We love them because of who and what they are not because of what they can do for us. I tried this and it was so hard to keep me out of it. Hope you can do better than me. Alas, I try.
Write the letter by hand (I know right, we even have to say that these days). No social media, no email and definitely no texting. Use beautiful paper and an envelope. Practice writing (ok you can type up the practice) what you will say. Keep removing references to yourself out of it. This is about them!
Now for the pièce de résistance.....hand them your letter with a luxury cupcake, or some chocolates and a succulent rose. All entirely optional but who doesn't love cupcakes?
Here is a beautiful but simple red velvet cupcake cream cheese frosting recipe that we're really fond of.
Put one of these gorgeous cupcakes into a single cupcake box and tie with red ribbon. Insert a single red rose into the ribbon. You don't, of course, have to go the whole package, but you get the gist.
*A very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral annual festival, observed in the city of Rome on 15 February, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.