Ever wonder how we came to celebrate this yearly romance reminder?  No, it did not begin as a conspiracy among florists or expensive restauranteurs as many would believe.  Valentine’s Day has its origin in an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, during which an order of Roman priests would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa.  The priests would sacrifice a goat, and then gently strike women who gathered in the streets with strips taken from the goat’s hide, as a ritual of fertility.

            Lupercalia managed to survive the rise of Christianity, but was eventually outlawed near the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day, named after a priest who was martyred in 270 A.D.  According to legend, the priest signed his farewell note “from your Valentine” and addressed it to his jailer’s daughter whom he healed of blindness. 

Valentine’s greetings date back as far as the Middle Ages, and were first printed as cards in the United States in the mid-1800s.  Today, the romantic gesture is celebrated with traditional gifts of heart-shaped boxes of candy, flowers and red roses. But there is an important caveat to be considered for married couples surrounding this holiday.

There is an usual legal phenomenon that accompanies Valentine’s day each year. It is often followed by rise in divorce litigation. In recognition of this annual trend, one local attorney in Murfreesboro gained celebrity in the news recently with his offer to give away a free divorce as a Valentine’s Day gift.[1]   It is estimated that nationally there is a 38% increase in divorce filings following the holiday.   A recent study of divorce filings in New York, Illinois and California cited by CNN reports that February is the busiest month by far for divorce filings.

Some in the field of family counseling attribute this bump in family breakups around Valentine’s Day to the lack of genuine intimacy in marriages and a feeling of being left out as many see their peers receive tokens of affection from their spouses.  “The holiday itself often brings things to a head for couples having trouble,” says Alton Abramowitz, of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. 

            So, why should in those in Christian-based marriages, and those among our NCF base of readers be concerned?  It is because sadly we live in a legal environment and culture today that devalues marriage, and indeed, strives to re-define it.  The Defense of Marriage Act – a law that recognized marriage as between a man and a woman — was recently declared unconstitutional by our nation’s Supreme Court.  I recall some years ago arguing a case before an appellate court and making reference to the holiness and sanctity of marriage.  One of the judges on the panel perked up, scratched his head, and said: “Really, do you believe we should base our decision on that premise still today?” 

As my good friend, Margaret Phillips, a local family counselor points out in her insightful book: “Married couples are an at-risk population.”[2]

            Sound Legal Advice for Valentine’s Day:   Buy a card, some chocolate and flowers, but do not let these superficial gifts serve as your only tokens of affection. A better gift may be a humble, but sincere verbal declaration to that special person in your life of your commitment and devotion.

Larry L. Crain, Esq., Crain Law Group, PLLC – [email protected]

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