We are still a week away from Valentine’s Day but Russian Shoppe wanted to talk about this romantic holiday this week, in order to give you plenty of time for planning, valentine making, and gift buying (of course-).
Though the origins of Valentine’s Day are a bit ambiguous, today, most of us believe that it has something to do with a priest named Valentine, who performed marriage ceremonies for young and desperate couples during the time of Roman Emperor Claudius II (213 – 270 AD). Claudius II decided that unmarried men made for better warriors and forbade all men under 30 to get married. As we all know, forbidden love is even sweeter than that allowed, so many wanted to get married with yet stronger passion. When Claudius II found out about Valentine’s defiance, he had him executed and the priest became a martyr forever. But why is Valentine’s Day celebrated on February 14th?
Well, just like all other mainstream holidays, the reason for the date of Valentine’s Day has a lot to do with pagans. In fact, some say that the main reason for this holiday is specifically that – the need to overshadow a major pagan holiday and give people a reason to celebrate a holiday that takes roots in Christianity.
A fertility festival called Lupercalia was traditionally celebrated on February 15th among European pagans. Lupercalia was a festival dedicated to Faunus, the god of agriculture, and commemorated the beginning of spring. Many different rituals were performed during this holiday, one of which had to do with somewhat of a lottery, where men pulled articles belonging to different women from an urn. The woman whose name was pulled out spent one year with the man – a tradition that often led to marriage. It is believed that this is the reason that Valentine’s Day was made to be a holiday related to love and romance.
But enough about history. Let’s talk about the reasons we feel how we feel when we fall in love. Have you ever wondered how can something that is so intangible cause us so many troubles? We are capable of holding diets, climbing Mt. Everest, flying into space, and much more, but when it comes to love we seem to turn a blind eye and become fascinated with something/someone that can be clearly harmful to us. Why is that? What happens to our bodies and minds when we fall in love?
If you have ever fallen in love, you will agree that the feeling is very similar to an addiction. Well, that’s just what love is – an addiction to chemicals that are produced by our bodies when we feel, what we call, love.
There are three known stages of ‘love’: erotic lust, romantic attraction and commitment. The biggest chemical boost we get happens during the lust and romantic stages. During these, we feel symptoms like giddiness, elevated heart beet, flushed skin and sweaty palms. The chemicals that are responsible for these symptoms are dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine, which are all ‘pleasure chemicals’.
During the attraction period, our bodies fill with oxytocin, vasopressin and endorphins, which make us think irrationally and often stall our ability to think clearly. We start idealizing the person with whom we are in love and overlook any of his/her flaws. All of the above chemicals are mainly produced when we have sex and help bond the relationship, which leads to the stage of commitment.
In this, third, stage of a relationship, we stop basing our feelings on chemicals and continue to be with a person out of a sense of security and emotional bond. This is the reason we often start seeing flaws in the one next to us and say “She changed.” The fact is – she didn’t, you are simply now seeing things you were blind to in the first two stages.
Why does this happen? The biggest reason is reproduction. All the chemicals that play the crucial role in how we behave when we are in love are produced only to make the process of procreation pleasant and ensure that we want to form families, have children, take care of them and, as a result, ensure the species survival and domination. When we have children, the chemicals we produce change to encourage us to have stability and continue to raise them.
So, you see, though we like to think we are so much more superior to other species, our ‘love’ thing is only chemicals that drive us to procreate. Without them, we would be like panda bears – lying around, too lazy to do much.
Whether you are in the first, second or third stage of a love relationship; whether you believe one or the other legend for the appearance of this holiday, remember – Valentine’s Day is all about being romantic and letting the one you love know how you feel. Though gift giving is not mandatory, if you decide to do so, the tradition is sweets, flowers, and small gifts. When thinking small gifts, think something different this year: Faberge eggs, shawls, matrioshka dolls, or small toys can all be a great and unique idea.