Saints and Pagans and birds, oh my

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

Do you know its origins? (And no, it’s not a Hallmark-born holiday.)

The history of Valentine’s Day—named for Saint Valentine—is, well, a bit odd.

One legend states that Valentine was a priest who conducted marriage ceremonies in third-century Rome. But emperor Claudius II, who thought men would make better soldiers if they were all single (so third century!), outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine didn’t listen and carried on performing the loving unions. When the emperor got wind of Valentine’s act of defiance, he was not a happy camper; he had Valentine killed. Later, the church named this martyr a saint.

Some believe that celebrating the holiday in mid-February is to commemorate Valentine’s death, but others claim it was a slick PR move by the Christian church to rebrand the Pagan celebration of Lupercalia. This fertility festival included smearing the blood of sacrificed goats on townswomen. (Fun!) Shockingly, the Roman women welcomed bizarre ritual and being paired up with the bachelors who choose their names from an urn and paired up with them for the year ahead. At the end of the 5th century, Lupercalia was deemed “un-Christian,” and Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day.

It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that day became associated with love. In France and England, February 14th was commonly believed to be the beginning of birds’ mating season, which supported the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

(And then there’s this chubby little naked dude* who supposedly launches arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers.)

What a weird holiday.

For most of us, it’s about acknowledging the important people in our lives with cards, flowers, and chocolate.

But this Valentine’s Day, the greatest gift can’t be found in a store; it’s demonstrated in your everyday interactions with those you value most.

The best way to show someone you care is to truly “see” them as a human being.

What does that mean?

When you “see” someone, you give that person your full and undivided attention. You listen to understand, not to respond. You acknowledge their presence, and in doing so, send a clear message that they matter.

These days, even with the best intentions, it’s easy to go off the rails. We get caught up in the grind, stressed about the hundreds of emails in our inbox, fearful of looming deadlines and the demands of our bosses and boards.

But while we’re multitasking our way into oblivion, we tend to forget one fundamental truth: people power business.

When you use your awareness of others to slow down and truly “see” them, you’ll spread a little more love into the world.

And that’s a gift that keeps on giving. (No goats required.)


Unfortunately, there’s an important someone we typically overlook in our professional worlds, and that person deserves a little nurturing too. In my latest Forbes article, I share why the most valuable person isn’t who you think—and how to leverage your career’s true MVP. 🏆

And before I go, just for fun, tell me: What’s the best Valentine’s Day gift you’ve ever given or received? Let me know in the comments below.

Shine on,

Amy

P.S. First time here? (Aww… hey there, newbie! Happy Valentine’s Day, friend!) Be sure to check out the website to catch up on previous issues.

P.P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or my other content, I’m a social media ghostwriter (yep, that’s a thing), helping founders, entrepreneurs, and CXOs craft their stories to communicate and connect better by magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.

P.P.S.S. Now that we’re inbox-exclusive, you might want to follow my interweb shenanigans too. I’m on ForbesLinkedInTwitterInstagram, and now, Clubhouse. (No link for that last one. If you’re also there, you can find me at @amyblaschka.)

P.P.P.S.S. One more thing: If you think this post would resonate with others, feel free to share it with your friends. Or better yet, invite them to join our Illuminate Me tribe!


*Even this cherub has a shady past. The Roman God Cupid has his roots in Greek mythology as the Greek god of love, Eros. According to the Greek Archaic poets, Eros was a handsome immortal who played with Gods and men’s emotions, using golden arrows to incite love and leaden ones to sow aversion. (So gangster.) It wasn’t until the Hellenistic period that he began to be portrayed as the naughty kid we know him as today.