Valentine’s Day or St Valentine’s Day has been celebrated since time immemorial and while its beginnings are vague, history has narrowed its origins down to three possible events. It is suggested that the day may have started in commemoration of St Valentine of Terni who defied his emperor’s law and secretly married young couples to spare husbands from war. Another possible beginning is in commemoration of another member of the clergy (some believe it is the same man), an imprisoned priest named Valentine who befriended his jailor’s daughter and wrote a letter signing it “From your Valentine”. Still others believe that the day was meant to commemorate the Roman festival of Lupercalia which celebrated the coming of spring and included fertility rites. Whichever origin story is preferred, over the years the day itself has sparked a thriving trade for florists, chocolatiers as well as the greeting card industry and become synonymous with romance and love.
While it was not a holiday celebrated within my home, I grew up, much like most of you, associating February with love. I remember anticipating the switch from red and green over the Christmas season to red and pink for Valentine’s Day. I recall that you could not walk through a high street or mall without seeing flowers, candies, cards and teddy bears in various shades of red and pink with messages of love overflowing from baskets and shelves. It was impossible to walk the streets without hearing love songs blasting from speakers as the vendors attempted to sell various “greatest hits” CDs and “mixed tapes”. As a child it was indeed fun to watch and you may have received chocolates from your parents or teachers at school. As an adolescent and young adult, depending on your relationship status, it was either much anticipated as you were awaiting that symbol of love from your significant other or dreaded as it was pointed reminder of your profound singleness. Whatever your memory, it is safe to say that today is no different from years past; February is the month of love.
As I reflect on this commonly accepted notion, I am forced to think about the sentiment shared by some; that you should celebrate your loved ones – everyday. On thinking about this, I wonder how many people across the globe share this sentiment. When I consider the heartbreaking statistics (WHO estimates that 1 in 3 women experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime and that millions of children aged 2–17 years, experience physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect yearly), it is quite clear that many women and children do not experience “love” – everyday. It is also quite possible the true meaning of “love” may not be universally known.
While the generic meaning of “love” is an intense feeling of deep affection, there are in fact, many types of love. Of the four types of love (Eros, Philia, Storge and Agape), I would like to draw attention to Agape love which is the love of mankind; a love that is given whether or not it is returned. I would like to encourage each one of you to exercise that love in your daily lives through your thoughts, words and actions. I would like each of you to challenge the beliefs and values that you may hold that does not align with the ideals of equality and the rights of all people to live in peace. I would like each of you to be mindful of your words and be weary of the power they carry to impact others. I sincerely would like each of you to make a conscious decision to act in love and extend kindness to those you meet. I would like to see us return to the place where we could “be our brothers’ keepers” and be that “village” that looks after our neighbours. Let today and everyday be one where you choose love.
Written by: Ahhalia Ramdass