Written by Emily Cook of Sutton, ON

The smell of chocolate and roses is in the air, your friends are showing more PDA (Public Displays of Affection) in the hallway than usual, and heart-shaped everything is everywhere. Must be time to celebrate fertility! … Wait, what?

Many of us celebrate Valentine’s Day when it comes around each year on February 14, but do we really know what it’s all about and where it comes from? It is believed all the gushy traditions started with an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, which celebrated fertility through a festival that happened February 13–15. But the first Christian feast day celebrating St. Valentine was founded in 496 AD (according to infoplease.com/spot/valentinesdayhistory.html).

Why this day commemorated St. Valentine is shrouded in mystery and myth. There were actually three St. Valentines. The most common Valentine’s Day myth takes us back to the year 270. The story goes that the Roman emperor Claudius II thought single men made better soldiers, so he banned them from getting married. In the myth, St. Valentine continued performing marriage ceremonies despite this ban, and it cost him his life. Another myth is St. Valentine was imprisoned by Claudius and fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he died he sent her a love letter signed “from your Valentine.”

Valentine’s Day eventually developed into the huge commercial celebration we face today. It started with the mass production of cards and has moved on to include flowers, chocolate, candy, proposals and any other romantic thing you can think of. But in this environment of materialistic expectations and romanticized view of love, where do Christians fit in?

It’s important to remember where the origin of love comes from, and what it looks like in its perfect form – a form that is and can only be, God’s.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” – 1 John 4:7-8

This passage goes on to tell us what that love actually looks like: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

So this Valentine’s Day, whether you’re with a “significant other” or chewing heart-shaped candy with friends, take a moment to remember what real love is and turn to the God who started it all. It’s a great time to express real love to those around you—God’s love.