The second most popular story about the origins of Valentine's Day is that it derived from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia held around Feb. 14.
Lupercalia was a pagan festival that celebrated the return of spring and beseeched the gods for fertility of the land, animals and people. It was a rather "interesting" holiday that involved animal sacrifices, men running around town half-naked and drunk, young women lining up to be whipped, and a lottery system that paired the men up with a mate for a year. Yeah, I wish I could say I made that up.
Nevertheless, whichever origin story you prefer, neither is a Harlequin romance novel. In fact, these stories indicate that the original Valentine's Day was not about the uniting of two perfect soul mates forever and forever.
Indeed, they thumb their noses at the commercialized and idyllic notion of romantic love that modern Valentine's Day propagates, which is a liberating notion for those who find this day to be depressing and lonely.
So, instead of letting society dictate the meaning of Valentine's Day, make it your own day and celebrate the meaning you give it. This could be honoring love in all its forms or celebrating a time when you stood up for your beliefs and bravely faced negative consequences, like Priest Valentine did.
Or, you may wish to celebrate the coming of spring and the rebirth of the earth and the spirit ala Lupercalia (only without the animal sacrifices, public nudity and sexual assault).
Need some ideas for your alternative Valentine's Day celebration? Here are a few for singles and couples alike.
- Have a girl's night out with your fellow single friends. Dress up in your best outfit or your most outrageously campy one -- think tiaras, feather boas, gloves, pageant sashes.
- Instead of the regular dinner with drinks, have a champagne and dessert-only night. Later on, catch the Divas of Broadway drag show at the Broadway Bar on Leon Sullivan Way.
- Host a pajama or move night party. Or both! Challenge everyone to create a pro- or anti-Valentine's Day-themed drink or appetizer. Watch your favorite non-romantic "chick flick" (my favorite's "Muriel's Wedding"), a horror film, or a beefcake movie such as "Magic Mike."
- For those who like it dark and Machiavellian, Season 2 of "House of Cards" premiers on Friday.
- If you don't have time or want to host a party? Throw one for yourself! That way, you won't have to share your Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Don't shave! Bring out that Snuggie you've been hiding since your grandma bought it for you a few years ago and watch the entire series of "Drop Dead Diva" or "Orange is the New Black." Yeah, try doing that if you have a boyfriend or spouse.
- Give yourself a day at the spa.
- Devote the day to doing things you love the most, whether that be reading, working on your novel or short story, playing guitar or finishing that painting.
- Write yourself a love letter, outlining all the wonderful and unique things about you. And don't forget to buy yourself a gift as a token to your awesomeness!
- If you are the type that tends to wallow in sadness on Valentine's Day, volunteer at a local food kitchen, homeless shelter or nursing home. Nothing stops self-pity and brings you perspective like helping people in need.
- Instead of doing the same old routine dinner and a movie, do something personalized for your significant other. Cook him or her that favorite dish. If you are the messy type, clean the house for your partner or hire someone to do it. Fix something he or she wanted to have repaired for a while. If there is a "honey-do" list lying around, you have a great starting place for ideas.
- Have a treasure hunt that leads to inexpensive but sentimental items to celebrate your relationship, such as framed pictures of you both and small symbolic gifts.
- For wine or beer lovers, give your partner a selection of his or her favorite beverage, or introduce them to a new type altogether. Order take-out and have a tasting at home.
- Have a picnic in the privacy of your home -- with candlelight.
- Have a couple's massage or spa day.
- Take a cooking, art, sport or photography class together.
- Take a weekend road trip together and explore a new city.
- Take a ballroom or Latin dance class at the Moose Lodge on Kanawha Boulevard. Beginner class starts at 6:30 p.m.
- Alternatively, explore your own city. Bring a camera and document your adventures.