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Better than Chocolate!

Better than Chocolate!
Okay, the truth is that when it comes to St. Valentine’s Day, you either love it or hate it.

Those with positive feelings usually associate the ancient holiday with roses, chocolates, and dinner out with a loved one. Those with less than positive feelings about Valentine’s rebel against its artificial quality and the heavy-handed way it underscores our already over-the-top cultural emphasis on finding love and living as a couple.

Love it or hate it, hardly anyone gives St. Valentine himself much thought. Believe it or not, St. Valentine was an early Christian martyr. He lived during the 3rd century, during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, and devoted himself to converting pagans to Christianity. He was arrested for marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians being persecuted by Claudius. After he refused to renounce his faith, he was executed, legend tell us, on Feb 14, 269 CE.

Sometime in the middle ages, the remembrance of the martyr Valentine’s death became conflated with Lupercalia, an extremely popular, possibly pre-Roman holiday that was celebrated every February to purify or purge Rome of evil spirits.

But Feb 14 didn’t become a romantic occasion until centuries later. It was first connected to romantic love by Chaucer in the 14th century, a time when the art of courtly love flourished. By the 18th century, it had finally morphed into the tradition we know of sending cards, flowers, and candy to special loved ones. And, it should be noted, as big as it is in the US, St. Valentine’s Day is an international phenomenon. In many Latin American countries, including Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as El Dia del Amor y la Amistad, which in English is the Day of Love and Friendship, and is celebrated with gifts of all kinds to both lovers and friends.

If knowing its convoluted history doesn’t change your mind about the value of holiday, you might take the same tack as our Latin American friends and focus on the holiday as an opportunity to express your love and admiration for all your friends, rather than limiting your celebration to your romantic partners.

Science confirms that friendship is essential to our mental health. People with strong emotional support networks have an enhanced ability to weather the inevitable ups and downs of life. And nothing cements a quality friendship like letting someone know how much you love and appreciate them. Consider Valentine’s Day a prime opportunity to plant and nurture the love you will need, not just to celebrate the love you have.

And remember, St. Valentine himself was a paragon of devotion…to God. He lived a life dedicated to spreading God’s love to as many people as possible. This Valentine’s Day, I invite you to put aside the chocolate and flowers and let someone new know that they too are loved and cherished by God. After all, if you can see it in the face of a friend, God’s love is a lot better than chocolate!
–Pastor Pepper

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