Not Your Everyday News

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Has everyone given and/or received their flowers, chocolates, teddy
bears, jewelry, or electronic gizmo (that's for guys like my husband
of course!)? Valentine's Day has become, like all other holidays, quite
commercial, a bonanza for retailers. Couples who are deeply in love, and
people who truly care about one another, celebrate year-round, not just
February 14th; even so, there is always something special about this
mid-winter holiday. Chocolate covered strawberries might be at the top
of that special list! But how did we get on the road to adorable stuffed
animals and red roses? The history of Valentine's Day and its patron
saint is cloaked in mystery. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today,
contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. Today,
the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named
Valentine or Valentinus; all 3 were martyred. One legend contends that
Valentine was a priest who served in Rome during the 3rd century. When
Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than
those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men, his
crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree,
defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in
secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that
he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been
killed for attempting to help Christians escape brutal Roman prisons,
where they were often beaten and tortured. St. Valentine's Day became
known as a romantic holiday in medieval times; the earliest surviving
written Valentine greeting is dated from 1415. It became a commonly
celebrated holiday in Great Britain in the 17th century; it was imported
to the U.S. a century later. Hallmark and American Greetings can thank
Esther Howland of Massachusetts for their huge February cash register
receipts. It was Howland who, in 1847, produced the first commercial
Valentine's Day cards. Her father ran a large book and stationary store;
after Esther received a Valentine from England, she decided to make her
own out of colorful lace, ribbons, and pictures to sell in the store. As
they say, the rest is HISTORY!

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