Greek Inspirations on St. Valentine’s Day



Sappho_and_Alcaeus1

If love could be defined, then it would contain the most intense and vitalizing feeling, but also the most oppressive one, as it requires a positive response in order to be fulfilling. From Plato, who mentions in his Symposium “that universal love and interest is for the sake of immortality,” to the harsh Schopenhauer who calls love a “necessary evil,” or even psychoanalysis, which considers love as an antidote to the instinct of death, the conclusion is one: no human soul can exist without love. From the Trojan War to the hedonism of the 60’s in the 20th century and the 21st century pornography — passion, pleasure and love are key parameters that determine social evolution, equivalent to war and technology. The world has seen everything from churches in shambels, kingdoms in upheaval, the biggest lies told and poems upon poems written……all in the name of love.

This vitalizing love brings us to the celebration of Eros which every year on February 14th, is referred to as St. Valentine’s Day. Lovers and couples celebrate and show their affection, romantic love and commitment to each other. The chocolate and card industry flourishes on that day as people around the world give small gifts to their beloved ones in the name of Cupid — the Roman deity of love and desire inspired by the ancient Greek winged deity of Eros.

But apart from the small god of Greek mythology who plays a role in the evolution of this foreign-brought celebration, are there any other aspects of St. Valentine’s Day that could be possibly associated with Greece or Greek culture?

First of all, the story hidden behind the most identifying love symbol is of Greek origin. Of this symbol, more than 200 million pieces will be taking the center stage during this week’s celebration and will be given as gifts to our beloved ones. This symbol, none other than red roses, has come to stand for love and romance, after being associated with the Greek goddess of Love Aphrodite, found in Greek mythology.

Since the 7th century BC the Greek poet Sappho had already declared the rose to be the “Queen of the Flowers.” According to the myth, when Aphrodite ran to the side of her wounded lover Adonis, who had been injured by a wild boar during a hunt, she pricked her foot on a white rose. Her blood turned all the roses of the bush red, thus the red rose becoming a symbol of undying devotion.

Just in case the globalized St. Valentine’s Day doesn’t appeal to some Orthodox Greeks who prefer a religious day to celebrate their love, there is a day devoted to a Saint found in the Greek Orthodox calendar which falls on July 3rd, the name day of Saint Hyacinth. If you fear that you may not be in love around summer, then you can always celebrate on February 13th, the name day of Saint Akyllas and Priskilla, who were “put in charge” during the 80s’ by the Greek Orthodox Church to protect Orthodox couples and lovers.

From this year on, everyone will have the opportunity to celebrate love with a few more Greek- inspired ways, provided of course that one decides to devote a special day for expressing this unique re-vitalizing feeling. So, go ahead and tell your valentine “sagapo.”