My ♥’s on Fire, it’s Valentine’s Day!
As a kid the Valentine’s Day Party was my favorite school event. I loved making Valentine’s, writing out the names on the envelopes, and delivering the notes into Kleenex boxes covered in pink, doilies, and hearts, names carefully penned in red marker. Coming home with my box of cards to sort and look through rivaled the joy of sorting candy into categories after a night of Halloween trick-or-treating. Of course as I grew older Valentine’s Day took on a more burdensome weight. If I was dating someone then the question arose; what should I give him? What would he give me? The whole thing was always disappointing, never living up to movie romance images in my head. If I wasn’t dating anyone at the time it was a lonely night to scorn as Hallmark made and dismiss. Somewhere in there I decided take back Valentine’s Day and not let the grown up idea of Valentine’s Romance mess with my childhood pleasure in giving Valentine’s Day cards. So began a tradition of sending out Valentine’s to friends and family, far and near. I have several friends whose Valentine list I am blessed to be on and the feeling I get when I am holding the unopened envelope having recognized the return address is much like I felt as a child riding the bus home with my decorated mail box on my lap, looking forward to spreading them out on the floor in my room, joy, and anticipation followed by amazement at the beauty or cleverness of the dispatch. This is the feeling I hope to inspire with my own mailings.
I decided to dive into the history of St. Valentine’s Day. The information is murky at best. Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. What all the legends of St Valentine have is common are that he lived in third century Rome. He either helped Christians escape harsh Roman prisons or helped young Roman men marry when the Emperor had banned marriage for young men because single men made better soldiers, or while in prison he fell in love and before his execution he sent her a letter signed “your Valentine” (each story progressively more Romantic it seems). Whatever the truth he was a sympathetic character and by the Middle Ages St. Valentine’s greeting associated with courtly love and romance began to appear. The Catholic Church tried to wrestle the practice into religious devotion but romance won out and now centuries later there are an estimated one billion valentine cards sent by mail, and that’s not even counting all the children’s Valentines that will come home in bags and boxes to be scattered about bedrooms floors this afternoon.
That’s enough for today, this week I’m going to dig into the story of how the ♥ shape and heart itself got woven into the story of love. Until Friday, I ♥ U.