Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Today's is written by ACM supervising producer Emma Horn.
An innocent man was beheaded for the sadistic pleasure of a despotic Roman emperor just to remind you to buy your girlfriend roses on the way home from work.
Saint Valentine really knew what it meant to 'lose your head for love'.
On February 14 in the year AD 269, the early Christian clergyman was sentenced to death by Claudius II. He was taken outside the Flaminian Gate, beaten severely, and decapitated.
And what, pray tell, was the crime befitting this heinous punishment?
Befriending a blind girl, restoring her sight, and writing letters to the poor. Clearly, abhorrent.
So what on earth has any of this to do with the declarations of sappy, superficial, hallmark love commonly associated with February 14?
Here's the blink-and-you'll-miss-it connection. In his final letter to the Roman Judge Asterius' daughter - the girl whose sight he restored - he may, or may not have signed 'from your Valentine'.
Dear Asterius' daughter. I am about to die. Take care. From your Valentine. (Author paraphrased!)
A day of blood lust and devastation somehow morphed into the one day on the calendar to post inane, cutesy, overwrought couple pics on the internet in the hopes of making all your single friends jealous. Lovely.
The origins of Valentine's Day, as we've come to know it, are murky to say the least. Historians stand baffled, palms thrown collectively skyward, watching through time how February 14 went from that to this *author gesticulates wildly toward supermarket aisles filled with cartoonish plush hearts *
And to be honest, I think Saint Valentine would have been appalled to see what his name has become. Not least in the fact that he, himself, was a single man!
By today's standards, he would not have received a gift or a card for his own namesake day.
Instead of spending your time and resources on heart-shaped chocolates and fresh cut roses that will be gone and dead within the week (if that's not a metaphor for your love life, so help me), might I propose (no, not that proposal...) a return to the origins of Valentine's Day.
Wait. Wait. Wait. This is not an incitement to Roman imperial violence.
Saint Valentine was a man of letters. He gave his time and his words of encouragement to the widows, the orphans, the blind, the poor, and the needy.
He loved those society rejected.
A statement that is often ascribed to American lawyer Bob Goff periodically makes the rounds on social media:
"Love difficult people. You are one of them."
You have 365 days in a year (366 this year!) to show your love, appreciation, and devotion to your significant other.
Anyone can love the loveable. But loving the unlovable, well, that can change the world.
Instead of shopping like a barbarian for that last-minute appeasement teddy bear or gift shop necklace, spend February 14 loving the poor, the broken, the homeless, the lost.
Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Write a letter of encouragement to your elderly, widowed neighbour. Spend the day walking rescue animals. Pay for a colleague's coffee.
Find a way to make the world feel loved.
I guarantee you, it'll make you feel a whole lot better than that box of heart-shaped chocolates ever will.