Valentine’s Day has always been about rituals. The holiday has its roots in an ancient Roman fertility festival called Lupercalia, which celebrated early spring, fertility, ancestors, and love. Single girls would write their names and place them into an urn. Each bachelor would pick a name out of the urn and then spend the year with that girl—thus ensuring fertility for the community.
In the Middle Ages in France and England, the ritual of picking a single girl’s name out of an urn continued. The bachelor added the practice of drawing a heart on his sleeve—thus the origin of the expression. He would then commit to taking care of her for the whole year.
Legend has it that in the third century, the Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage. He felt that men would not want to go off to war if they were happy at home. A Christian priest named Valentine felt sorry for couples and married them in secret. When Claudius found out, he threw Valentine in jail and executed him on February 14. Before his death, Valentine developed a strong relationship with the jailkeeper’s daughter and signed his letters from your Valentine.
Fast forward to the present, and rituals are still an important part of Valentine’s Day. Here are five ways to make the day more meaningful and beautiful, whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not:
1. Put your feelings into words. By the 17th and 18th centuries, love letters and small gifts were exchanged at this time of year. Greeting cards became popular in the 19th century. Today, with the e-card, it’s easy to send a note of love and appreciation. In my opinion, though, nothing replaces a handwritten note—especially one rubbed with lavender flowers, which are said to bring happiness.
2. Lock in your love. There is a wonderful ritual in France and other countries in which couples write their names on a padlock and lock it onto a bridge. They throw the key into the river as a symbol of their undying love. Why not do the same as a symbol of your total commitment to a loved one or to yourself? Or put the key on a keychain as a symbol that you have the key to your own happiness.
3. Do something special for yourself. Buy yourself some flowers, treat yourself to a wonderful dinner, spend the afternoon in a museum, get a massage—do anything that makes you feel special.
4. Enjoy a love bath. Pour lavender, rosemary, thyme, and comfrey into warm water and soak.
5. Drink a love potion. Blend ½ cup papaya juice, ¼ cup banana, ¼ cup watermelon juice, and a pinch of cloves. Share with a loved one—or make it just for you.