Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

Here we are at the start February, which means that the most dreaded of all annual celebrations is right around the corner: Valentine’s Day.

This is a holiday which markets itself as being all about love, but in reality seems like it is just lying in wait to make you feel awful, no matter what your life situation.

If you are single, this is the day where you will be reminded of that. Relentlessly. It’s not a fun, flirty, “Ooh, look at you, single, options wide open, ready to take on the world” vibe either. No, this is a holiday that does its best to transform “alone” (which comes to us, by the way, from Old English and means “wholly oneself” – a fantastic state of being) into “lonely,” which stinks. And if you are already not loving being single, it is just plain brutal.

Truth be told, though, it is no easier on couples. The pressure to somehow manifest the ultimate grand gesture is intense. Images of candlelit bubble baths and rose petal-strewn surfaces are force-fed to us all year after year. Even if you manage to pull off a fairly lovely setup, you will be plagued by doubts: Is it enough? Is there even enough chocolate in the world to make us feel OK about what we have done for our beloved?

This holiday can make you feel like your amazing life is failing.

So, what even is the deal with this day, anyway? Now that we have established it is a really tricky emotional minefield of a holiday (and apologies to you if it is your favorite somehow), let’s pick apart how it even got started.


Like most entrenched celebrations that come with their own section in the card aisle at the store, it has dubious origins.

Historians can’t say with absolute certainty where or when the tradition began, but one likely contender for the title of “origin” is a feast day in ancient Rome. Rome is the starting point for a lot of parties on our calendar and, true to form, it was a bit, um, different back in the day.

Lupercalia was a fertility-based festival that ran from Feb. 13 to 15. Instead of candy hearts and flowers, though, think sacrificed dogs and beatings. Hallmark would have a hard time making the movie.

In the third century, “Emperor Claudius II executed two men, both named Valentine, on Feb. 14 of different years,” (thank you NPR), which seems to have narrowed the date and given a name to the celebration, while a few hundred years later in the fifth century, Pope Gelasius I tried to reshape the wild pagan holiday into a Christian one at the same time as the Normans were celebrating “Galatin’s Day” – all about the lovin’ – and things sort of jumbled and fused.

Which brings us to our current state of affairs.

What I am saying is this day is not the ideal benchmark of who you are or how your love life measures up.


If you are in a relationship, may I suggest you and your honey talk about the day ahead of time, set parameters, let each other off the hook – and then stick to the plan? No sneaky surprise gestures.

If you are single, especially if you don’t want to be, treat yourself really well. Buy yourself some chocolates, the really good ones, and fill your home with flowers – the ones you find prettiest. Remind yourself, as often as needed, that alone really is about being complete in yourself.

Either way, consider turning the day outward. Go buy that massive value pack of cheesy Valentine’s cards. That’s right, the one in the pharmacy aisle. Get two packs. Then hand them out with wild abandon. Give them to strangers, friends, random people who look blue.

We are all just struggling along and a goofy little heart on glossy paper telling us we are doing OK might just be the thing that transforms someone’s day.

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