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Valentine’s Day: The Current Celebration and Past of a Sweet Day.
Unfortunately, for those of you who do not desire the anticipation or the expense, Valentine’s Day is here to stay. The Valentine card, candy, roses, or some other special recognition of love is cause for excitement and anticipation. Valentines are sent out every February 14th, for many reasons. Some are given out of obligation, some for friendship, most for love. Memories of past Valentine’s Days, often mold or color how we celebrate Valentine’s. Some will be overjoyed and others will feel passed by when another important day comes, and the satisfaction that was so longed for and not received leads to disappointment.
Who doesn’t remember Valentine’s Day in elementary school? There was a time when some people had their hearts broken by finding that only one or two valentines had been dropped on their desks. Then teachers, out of compassion, ruled that all children must receive a valentine, even if there was just one valentine that needed to be given. Later the decorated white bags appeared which also kept valentines private and in one place until the student reached home. Some valentines were read at school, but then put back in the bag when leaving school. If you received a valentine that was short of what was anticipated, the card could be put back in the bag to be pondered in the privacy of one’s own bedroom.
It appears that the day that is an opportunity for guys to show their girls now they feel about them has turned into a day for all to show love to one’s friends, family, and significant others with cards or chocolates. Mothers get flowers, little girls get stuff animals, and men get a variety of gifts depending on their interests. Of course, the greeting card companies love all this because it is one more reason to buy a card. In fact, Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas for card sending. If you have been around an elementary school in the South recently, you’ll see parents dropping off a variety of gift from life-sized stuff animals, to balloon, to roses. So, many business from restaurants to craft shops benefit from the explosion that has become part of this heart-felt holiday.
I have to admit that I believe young men today are more in touch with Valentine’s Day than men were in the mid-20th century. Often our fathers would grab a box of candy on his way home from work to give to mom when she was hoping for a night away from the stove. There are still thousands of women who love that big red box of chocolates, but some of the boxes have become so large it’s almost an insult to women who are watching their weight. Flowers, especially red roses, are among the favorites, but in recent years the costs are so exorbitant that saving flowers for another occasion may make sense. The flowers that arrive at work, though, are a nice touch, especially if Valentine’s is early in the week and can be enjoyed by everyone for a few days.
The question that might be asked is where did this all begin? We want to say Saint Valentine, but was there such a person? There was a priest, St. Valentine, whose devotion to his Christian beliefs caused him to lose his life when he would not renounce his religion. His death may have given birth to the celebration of love that we now know. Then there was a Priest who continued to marry young soldiers when Rome had ordered that soldiers should not marry. He was put to death for blessing young love through marriage.
As we know, when Christianity became the major religion in Europe, many pagan celebrations still found their way into Christian communities. There was a pagan festival which fell in February that celebrated fertility. However, Pope Gelasius banned the fertility festival and declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. There is also the Middle Ages theory that states that this is the time of year that birds begin to look for a mate.
What about the Cupid we see everywhere? Where does he come into the picture? He is the offspring of the Goddess of Love, Venus, and loves to wound humans and Gods alike with his arrows, causing them to fall in love. Sometimes his victims end up loving the wrong person. Cupid is also considered the reason for the thorns on rose bushes due to an incident when he shot his arrow into white roses that were formed when Venus’ tears fell over her lost love.
So, however it started, Valentine’s Day is an important February date. In fact, once retail stores have cleared out the Christmas leftovers, Valentine decorations and cards are the first replacement. No matter who you are there is always someone who will appreciate being remembered. Enjoy the day and share the love.