I became aware of the Valentine’s Day only after setting foot in the Western hemisphere three decades ago. From ads for the perfect diamond for the lady love to flowers, candy, red hearts and romance – that's what Valentine's Day came to be to my inexperienced senses. It was an oasis in the dreary winter season. Years later, I realized that it was a way for the retail shoppers to jumpstart their sales following the year-end holiday season that is always a strain on the shoppers’ wallets.

With the cupid’s pheromone wafting as the Big Day approaches, I am reminded of the glory and glow of new love. However, being a naiveté in matters of heart I felt that must gain some insight into the experience of the opposite gender to appreciate the true impact of this day. When I started reading about personal anecdotes, I found that this occasion was far more variegated than the retailers would like us to believe.

What I find is that Valentine’s Day, a holiday traditionally about love and romance, has been slowly evolving into a holiday filled with mixed emotions, unmet expectations, and miscommunication between many individuals. Men and women have always struggled with communicating and understanding each other’s wants and needs. There are myths and reality of what men and women truly desire for Valentine’s Day.

Men feel women are more about expensive gifts and being wined and dined in posh, upscale restaurants. In reality, most women prefer to be heard, listened to, and have a mutual sharing of thoughts with their partner. They would rather receive a thoughtful gift that represents who they are, instead of a last minute item.

Women would like little acts of romance throughout their day, such as little love notes and forget-me-nots. Passion is primal! Sex, desire, and intimacy are things all women want in their relationships. Lastly, women seek a “real connection” with their partner. They want to share their “lives” together. Real connection comes from sharing interests, hobbies, dreams, and passions. True intimacy happens in the smallest moments of sharing disappointments, fears, hopes, dreams, and our deepest desires, knowing we are safe and loved.

The origin of this holiday for the expression of love really isn't romantic at all—at least not in the traditional sense.

The man behind the holiday—St. Valentine or Valentinus - was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called Claudias who persecuted the church at that particular time. Claudius had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died.

The idea of encouraging young couples to marry within the Christian church was what Valentine was about. And he secretly married them because of the edict. Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against command of Emperor Claudius the second. In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation.

The story goes that the last words Valentine wrote were in a note to one of his judge Asterius' blind daughter whom he apparently had healed. He inspired today's romantic missives by signing it, "from your Valentine." If this little history has not stirred your emotions, then this following historical note is likely to prove even more brutal than finding an empty Valentine’s cubby in elementary school.

The story involves Romans too. From Feb. 13 to 15 the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia (Latin lupus = wolf, Greek lukos = festival), to ward off evil spirits and enhance the health of the community. The (drunken) festival began with the sacrifice of two male goats and a dog. This would be followed by strange and brutal mating practices. Young women would line up for men to beat them, and then the men would draw the names of girls from a jar. The name they picked would be their sexual partner for the rest of the festival (and longer, if it was a good match.)

The Roman populace still continued to celebrate Lupercalia even after pagan rituals were outlawed in 5th century A.D. That century Pope Gelasius I established Valentine’s Day at the same time of Lupercalia to honor two martyred Christian priests named Valentine (they actually may have been the same person described earlier.) Around that time the Normans (Norse) also had a day, called Galatin’s Day, which celebrated the love of women. To further confuse things, the “G” in Norse is pronounced “V” in English. It seems like Lupercalia, St. Valentine’s Day, and Galatin’s Day all kind of got meshed together.

The modern flavor of Valentine’s Day took root in 14th century England within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer, when courtly love began to flourish. We find Ophelia ruefully reflecting on Valentine’s Day in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In 18th-century England, Valentine’s Day evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines").

Valentine’s Day is about love, not just couples. Singles can make it positive and meaningful too! They don’t have to be lonely and miserable on Valentine’s Day. Learning to love one’s “self” and self-acceptance are key to making this day special. Sharing love with friends and family can be very rewarding.

So, give yourself a new experience, sign up for a fitness or yoga class, or go to the spa, which can help relieve anxiety and tension. Plan a night out with other single friends, or attend singles events. Treat yourself to some shopping and buy yourself a Valentine’s gift. Maintaining a positive attitude and outlook may leave you with positive energy on this Valentine’s Day!

Finally, a proper evaluation of this occasion’s significance can’t be done without some numbers. So, here are some Valentine’s Day fun facts:
Percent of cards bought by women - 85%
Percent of flowers bought by men - 73%
Percent of women who send themselves flowers - 14%
Amount the average consumer spends - $116.21
Percent of consumers who celebrate - 61.8 %
Percent of women who would end their relationship if they didn’t get something for Valentine’s Day - 53 % Average number of children conceived on Valentine’s Day - 11,000



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