The origin of Valentine's Day is somewhat vague and illusive, an interesting toss-up between the honouring of a patron saint and an ode to an old Roman festival where women were whipped with the hides of sacrificial animals in an attempt to promote fertility. Either way, neither of these exactly screams 'love'.
The holiday has been dramatically romanticised over the years by the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare, followed by many other authors and poets over time, and whilst it's sometimes nice to think of love as this all-encompassing lust and desire for another person, in reality, it's not that absolute.
“I love her, and that's the beginning and end of everything. ” F. Scott Fitzgerald
Valentine's Day is most often associated with romance, the type of love the ancient Greeks called Eros. Named after the mischievous god of love, Eros is all about passion and is most likely what gives people 'the ick' about the holiday. Whilst this type of love is great, it's often short-lived and somewhat superficial, a love that is almost self-celebrating and sometimes unrealistic. Eros is great if you have it, but other types of love deserve more credit.
Sometimes, the passion of Eros can grow into another type of love over time, a love called Pragma. This long-lasting love has endured and evolved, a multifaceted bond that sometimes takes work to maintain but is oh-so-worth it. Pragma might not be a fiery affair, but it sure is rewarding.
“A friend is one soul abiding in two bodies.” Aristotle
Love doesn't equate to romance, and some of the deepest loves can be totally platonic. The love of friendship, Philia, is between two equals and is greatly characterised by loyalty and trust. This notion came from the Greek philosopher Plato, claiming physical attraction wasn't a necessary component of love and that this profound bond comes from the soul. The more recent concept of 'Galentine's Day' is a prime example of celebrating Philia, and it's becoming more common for platonic friends to refer to each other as soulmates.
Not too dissimilar to Philia is Storge, the unconditional love between family. Storge is an instinctual bond, a natural affection that is protective, accepting, enduring, and familiar. Unlike Philia, Storge can sometimes be one-sided but non-wavering nonetheless. The feeling of safety this devotion brings is a blessing and not to be taken for granted.
“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you. ” Rupi Kaur
While the notion of self-care seems like a modern concept, it was actually recognised by the ancient Greeks for its importance. This kind of love, called Philautia, is arguably one of the most fundamental types of love. It's got nothing to do with attraction or seeking approval but instead with learning about yourself and finding your worth. We've all heard of the metaphor about not being able to pour from an empty cup, and it really is the best way to express the importance of loving yourself.
With all that said, why is Valentine's Day one of the year's highlights, you ask? Because we love love in all of its forms, and it is a magical thing that unites us all. Yes, we should celebrate it every day and tell our loved ones how we feel, but in this busy world we live in, it's sometimes easy to forget. Valentine's Day is the perfect excuse to slow down, appreciate what makes life great, and remind ourselves how fortunate we are to love and be loved.