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Saturday, February 02, 2008

A History of Valentine's Day

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by that name. One was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni, and of a third St. Valentine almost nothing is known except that he met his end in Africa. Rather astonishingly, all three Valentines were said to have been martyred on Feb. 14. St. Valentine of Rome supposedly continued to marry young couples despite Roman Emperor Claudius II’s prohibition in 270 AD. So Claudius put Valentine to death. Another legend says that he was imprisoned for his faith and fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and sent her a love note signed, “Your Valentine”, just before he was martyred. Either way, he was martyred on Valentine’s Day.

It was Geoffrey Chaucer who connected Feb. 14 with romantic love. In 1381 AD he wrote a poem in honor of King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia’s anniversary of their engagement. It was printed in 1382 in Parlement of Foules.

"For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese [choose] his make [mate]. "

It took off because, at the time, during the Medieval age, courtly love and romance were very popular. So February 14th became a day of love. The earliest surviving Valentine’s Day card was a rondeau sent by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife. He was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415.

“Je suis desja d’amour tannĂ©Ma tres doulce ValentinĂ©e…”

Valentine’s Day is mentioned ruefully by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

It was back in style in the 1840’s in England and soon came to America. The first mass-produced valentines in America were of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland. Her father owned a stationary and large book store and she got her inspiration from a card she recieved from England.

Marketing in the industrialized world has made it into a very popular holiday. It is considered a necessity to show your love to your loved ones and to make the day super special for lovers. Cards, flowers, dinners out, champagne, lingerie, diamonds, roses, stuffed animals, hotel suites, etc. are typical gifts from women to men and men to women. It’s a time for school children to make homemade cards for their parents and stuff shoeboxes with little store bought valentine’s cards for their classmates. It can be fun but it also puts a lot of pressure on people to:

* Have a “Valentine”. If you don’t, you feel like a loser.
* Come up with the perfect gift for your love and it snowballs and gets to be a bigger ball every year!
* Spend a lot of money.
* Don’t get one-upped by rivals.

Try not to get sucked up in the marketing ploys. Let Valentine’s Day be a time to tell your loved ones, that you love them. If you don't have a special someone then sow some seeds of love by doing something special for those around you. Give a cupcake to your co-worker, send your friend a "Thinking of You" card, take your parent out for dinner, send a missionary a prayer card with a check, drop a pretty pot of bulbs off for your pastor. Keep all gifts low cost and appropriate but sow seeds and you will gain a harvest of friendship and love in return!

Let it be a day of fun. But have realistic expectations and keep it simple. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money! Money doesn’t have anything to do with how much you are loved or you love someone.

I make a card every year for my husband and I find a love poem to write in it. He buys me a card and looks for just the right one. He always takes me out for a nice, and early, (because he knows I like to go to bed early which means he is thinking about me) dinner but you could make a nice dinner at home and fix your table up with some candles! Sometimes we give each other a gift and sometimes we don’t. That’s OK. We can’t afford diamond jewelry every year and I don’t need chocolates for my waistline. Being kind to each other is another gift we can give each other that doesn’t cost a thing. Tucking a love note in a lunch sack can brighten their day. Just think of little things. Challenge yourself to show love without spending money!

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