Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. There is a variety of stories that attempt to explain the history of this special day. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia there are at least three Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, and all of them associated with February 14.
Regardless of the origin, the date has long been celebrated as a day of romance.
Valentine's Day is considered the second most popular card-sending holiday behind Christmas, according to the Greeting Card Association. The group predicts 160 million Valentine's Day cards will be sent in the U.S., a figure that does not include children's packaged Valentines or E-card greetings.
According to the National Confectioners Association, Valentine's Day is the fourth biggest holiday for buying confections. Halloween is in the lead, followed by Easter and Christmas. This year it is predicted that more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold. A survey by the Chocolate Manufacturers Association indicates that is what 50 percent of women plan to give the men in their lives.
A bouquet of red roses is another very popular gift on Valentine's Day. They symbolize passion and love and that makes them the most popular flower on this special day.
A romantic dinner is often the way couples celebrate this "day of love." Over half of the respondents in a survey by Open Table said they plan to spend $101-200 on this romantic dinner and 10% will spend over $200 for the special meal. The favorite food of the respondents was Italian (35%) followed by French (25%), American (11%), and fondue (8%). 7% preferred small plates of tapas.
Regardless of what gift one might have in mind, the National Retail Federation from its Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey indicates that consumers plan to spend $15.7 billion this year. That is an average of $116.21 per individual. According to this survey, men spend twice as much as women.
If those numbers terrify you, perhaps you would like to celebrate Valentine's Day this year in Uzbekistan. According to Russian news agency RIA-Novosti, that country is cracking down on celebrating love on February 14, canceling concerts and other romance-themed events. As a substitute, authorities have arranged readings of poems by Mughal emperor Babur - whose birthday falls on Cupid's holiday - for residents of the country's capital city, Tashkent.
Uzbekistan's solution is not exactly what I have in mind but I do believe that Valentine's Day has become too commercialized.
Love cannot be measured in monetary terms and it is more than mere words.
Best selling novelist and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks says, "Love is more than three words mumbled before bedtime. Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other every day."
The great actor and writer Peter Ustinov said, "Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit." He is right in suggesting that love is not hormonal or simply emotional. It has to be intentional and will seldom leave you in a state of ecstasy. Love is an act of the will. According to Leo Buscaglia, "Love is always bestowed as a gift -- freely, willingly, and without expectation. We don't love to be loved; we love to love."
Mother Teresa counseled us to "Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own home. Give love to your children, to a wife or husband, to a next-door neighbor." Her advice is consistent with Jesus' commandment that we "love one another as I have loved you." This, He said, is how people know we are His disciples.
On this Valentine's Day and every day "let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love-so you can't know him if you don't love." (I John 4:7-8, The Message).
[Taken with permission from Monday Morning in North Georgia, Feb. 13, 2012. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]