Why are we pressured to buy gifts, write poems, and declare our love for another?
Isn't a card with heartfelt sentiments good enough?
Even when our significant other gives us the ancient cliché, "You don't have to buy me anything," we know that's a hidden code for, "You better not forget me."
I guess to them, it's even more romantic if we buy a gift anyway even when we have been freed from all obligations.
Though it is hard to pinpoint exactly where the holiday originated, there are a few legends of the holiday's beginnings.
These legends are not completely verifiable, but they are common enough to at least have some degree of believability, so, here it goes.
The romantic side of Valentine's Day is said to come from Lupercalia, a Pagan festival of fertility, which was celebrated in the middle of our month of February.
This festival began with an animal sacrifice -- nothing says love like a dead animal.
After the sacrifice, the celebration continued with the ritualistic slapping of the young women with strips of the animal's flesh and blood -- ah, how romantic.
Around the fifth century, the church renamed this holiday as Saint Valentine's Day (thank heavens!).
Who is Saint Valentine? Who knows? The church canonized several Valentines, but the most accepted belief is of a Roman priest during the reign of Claudius the second.
Claudius kept his soldiers in the field for extremely long periods of time, and the soldiers became homesick.
So much so, that they became ill suited for battle. Therefore, Claudius banned the soldier and everyone else from the right of marriage.
Valentine found this unjust and married the people secretly.
When he was found out, he was arrested, jailed, and sentenced to death. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with his jailor's daughter. On the day he was executed, he slipped his love a note that was signed, "From your valentine."
Now, to the history of cards: Again, it is hard to pinpoint the exact origins of the cards.
In Rome, cards baring the names of young people were once collected and placed in an urn. On Valentine's Day, you would draw a card to see who your valentine was.
You would show your affection to them and would then give them gifts later in the year.
It can't be proven, but a card signed Amanda Huginkiss was mysteriously discovered at every drawing -- ha ha.
The cards later became a declaration of love to your significant other.
The cards could be quite elaborate and pictures of cherubs or Cupid, the Roman god of Love, were staples of the sentiments. The cards grew in craftsmanship and popularity when they became part of the Civil War soldier's stationary ration.
You can search vintage valentine's cards on the Internet to see the many good examples.
For our Valentine's Day, we can buy a card (if you're not imaginative enough to write a good letter), buy some chocolates (make sure it's her favorite chocolates, not yours), or pay triple the normal price for some roses (it means more to her if you buy flowers randomly throughout the year).
It's up to you, but like she said, "You don't have to buy me anything," especially if you want to spend Valentine's night on the couch.
Paul Harbour can be reached at www.paulharbour.blogspot.com.