Legends abound about the origins of Valentine’s Day, but most revolve around St. Valentine, a Roman romantic who was killed in the third century for supposedly defying Emperor Claudius II, who believed that single men made better soldiers.
To ensure his subjects stayed single, Claudius II outlawed marriage.
We’ll never know for sure, but what we do know is that anyone in a loving relationship who chooses not to recognize Valentine’s Day probably runs the risk of bodily harm or, at the very least, temporary excommunication.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. To get you started, we’ve found a few activities that tweak tradition without sacrificing romance.
Tradition No. 1: Flowers
Instead of showing up at the door with a bouquet, consider one of these petal-driven options.
Mid-Carolina Camellia Show
Camellias were so beloved in ancient China that emperors planted them in secret gardens. Today, it symbolizes passion, faithfulness and perfection.
See them in their glory at this twice-yearly bloomfest.
7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at the S.C. State Farmer’s Market. Free. atlanticcoastcamelliasociety.org
Orchids on the Riverbanks
The S.C. Orchid Society will display hundreds of these living sculptures, with many available for purchase.
Orchids are thought to represent fertility; the Paphiopedilum species is named for Paphos, the site of the Temple of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love.
1-5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, and Sunday, Feb. 11, at Riverbanks Botanical Garden, 1300 Botanical Parkway, West Columbia. Free with Riverbanks admission. www.riverbanks.org
Tradition No. 2: Taking in a Show
Nothing gets a date off to a good start (and gives you something to talk about later) like a stage show.
Broadway in Columbia’s ‘Cabaret’
In this classic musical set in Weimar, Germany, one girl, two men and the ensuing love triangle prove that nothing is more romantic that following your heart.
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, at the Koger Center, 1051 Greene St. $45-$55. www.kogercenterforthearts.com
‘Sense and Sensibility’
Jane Austen set the stage for modern romantic comedy with “Sense and Sensibility,” and this touring production by Aquila Theater has earned rave reviews. Plan on arriving an hour early for a pre-show talk with the artists.
4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, at the Newberry Opera House, 1201 McKibben St., Newberry. $20-$40. www.newberryoperahouse.com
Tradition No. 3: Dinner and fun
Prove that even tradition-minded romantics can think outside of the (heart-shaped) box.
‘The Perfect Mate’
Murder and dating may seem like strange bedfellows, but it all comes together in this hilarious spoof about a dating game show and a missing host. Even better, a three-course dinner is included with the show.
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, and Friday, Feb. 9; Wednesday, Feb. 14, through Saturday, Feb. 17; and Saturday, Feb. 24, at Plates and Plots Dinner Theater, 101-C Summer Duck Trail, Lexington. $35. platesandplots.com
The Spirit of Lake Murray
There aren’t many cities where you can celebrate Valentine’s Day with a dinner cruise without driving for several hours. Columbia is one of them, and the Spirit of Lake Murray does it in style with live jazz and a gourmet meal under a sky full of stars.
6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, and Wednesday, Feb. 14; 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10; at Hollow Creek Marina, 3340 U.S. 378, Leesville. $69-$79; couples-only Admiral’s Room, $169-$179 per couple. lakemurraycruises.com
Tradition No. 4: The Surprise
You’ll earn bonus points for creativity with these unique date ideas.
Amore Under the Stars
Sip Champagne, indulge in dessert, listen to poetry and romantic music, learn to tango, and make your date feel like the most important person in the universe all while taking in the night sky at the S.C. State Museum’s Boeing Observatory. They’ve even got you covered if you forget your card with a hands-on card-making station.
6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, at the South Carolina State Museum, 301 Gervais St. $35 ($28 for members). scmuseum.org
Lake Murray Polar Plunge
Kick off Valentine’s week with a frosty dip in Lake Murray while you raise money for Special Olympics South Carolina. There’s a costume contest, too, for true creative types, and lunch will be served.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at SCE&G Park at Lake Murray Dam, 1888 N. Lake Drive, Lexington. Free, but each participant must raise $50. so-sc.org/polar-plunges