Be Mine: Valentines Through Time



A writer wants to know, you know. He wants to know whether his words are just blowing in the wind or perhaps being discussed at night in the family room with the children gathered ‘round the fire.

I asked my readers. One said he couldn't remember a word, and the other said he didn't understand the question. Both thought "Blowing In The Wind" was a rather catchy phrase, though. I explained that it belonged to a song written by Bob Dylan and made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary (a singing group) about 100 years ago. Their blank look told me all I needed to know.

It doesn't matter. Valentine's Day is coming. Everything is love and sweetness and candy and kisses and hugs and love and sweetness and love -- otherwise known as the day of atonement or supplication The whole day is heart-shaped. One is either gushing with eternal pledges of heroic love or swearing lifelong fealty if allowed the key to another's worshiped heart.

Two industries either survive or perish depending on the general reaction to this day. The candy industry and florists. Hallmark Cards (a monopoly) makes 50 percent of its yearly profits this week. It's a guess, I know, but who is going to challenge it? In addition, this is the biggest revenue day in the restaurant industry -- bigger than Mother's Day or Thanksgiving.

OK, I hear you, both of you. You are chiding me for being crass and commercial. You say I have no soul. You probably think I can watch "An Affair to Remember" with dry eyes. Old Stoneheart, you are saying. Well, you are wrong, so put the kids to bed with the truth. I am really a softie. I have given my share of heart-shaped candy and sweetly-written cards over the years. And the flowers? Oh, my!

Even now, I can clearly remember the thrill of receiving a valentine card from Amy Settle (a lovely creature) in third grade. Naturally, I assumed this was an invitation to sneak a kiss at recess. Amy's startled reaction was, "Everybody had to give cards, Dummy!"

Thus began my adventures with females. To my great credit I didn't get discouraged -- only smarter.

Sometime later, in fourth grade, I got a valentine card from, "A Secret Admirer." Now, I was pretty sure that this came from the lovely Amy, but I was careful to not overplay my hand. I waited until after school and casually offered to carry her books. I still remember her squeal of appreciation. Something like, "EEEOOUUU!"

I could tell that I had made progress.

I'm not real clear on whatever happened to the relationship. She moved away, I think, and I was busy reacting to new "Amys". None ever matched her, though, for sheer beauty and brass. Well, maybe a few, now that I think of it. Let's see, there was Judy and Margie and ... Valentines all.

Like most special days, the history of Valentine's Day is somewhat murky. It appears that ancient Rome had a priest named Valentine (or perhaps, Valentino) who defied the Emperor's decree that all men remain unmarried until after military service. This priest continued to perform marriage ceremonies until he was put to death. Later the decree was rescinded when manpower became scarce, and much credit was given to Valentine for his courage. Love conquered even the Emperor.

Saint Valentine, along with Saint Nicholas and Saint Patrick have become iconic names in Christian history. Each is associated with a particular calendar day. February 14 has been the official date for Valentine's Day at least since the year 496, by a declaration from the Pope. The month of February has been considered a time of love and fertility since mythology.

The first recorded association of Valentine's Day with romantic love is in: (1382):

"For this was on seynt Volantynys day Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese (chose) his make (mate)."

By Chaucer, one of my favorite authors, and oh how I love to cuddle up on a rainy night with some Olde English.

Valentine's Day has, no doubt, been responsible for more love affairs and marriages than any other day on the calendar. Celebrating with notes and flowers has been widely popular since the 18th century. Lovers and would-be lovers, married and single, young and old, the day is an opportunity to express romantic feelings in a special way.

Who is YOUR valentine? Tell them so in your own way.

Be wary, though, of cards that read, "From a Secret Admirer."

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