It’s February 14

What does that mean to you?

Notice I didn’t call it Valentine’s Day. 

Or Galentine’s Day. 

Or Single Awareness Day. 

Or International Quirkyalone Day (Yes, that’s real. I saw it online. It’s been around since 2003 and is for singles and those in platonic relationships.)

Or Let’s Make This Day Go Away Day.

Tell Someone You Love Them and Forget Them the Rest of the Year Day.

Pretend You’re Still in Love Day

Try to Impress Her Because You Really Screwed Up Day. 

A lot of people “celebrate” it that way, you know. As our daughter says, why the big fuss over Valentine’s Day? If you love someone you should tell them all the time. Not just one day a year. She’s always felt that way, even after being married for almost seven years with two kids. 

She does have a point, you know. We should tell those we love how we feel a lot more often than we do.

Of course, she makes sure her daughters have Valentine gifts, and helps them make cards for their friends and grandparents (us), and buys them valentine themed shirts for pictures. One year she even had a valentine photo shoot with them.

Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy Valentine’s Day. My husband and I exchange cards, sometimes balloons or flowers, and go out for a great dinner. 

I’ve even started decorating a few areas in our house for Valentine’s Day; our kitchen table has a Valentine centerpiece collection, our foyer table has a few little valentine nuggets, and since I still work remotely, my home office has Valentine gnomes spread around. (I really don’t like gnomes but these are cute!) It’s fun and gives a bit of color and whimsy that’s so needed after all the glittery Christmas decor is put away.

A lot of women authors are beginning to recognize that Valentine’s Day is also a holiday that needs to be explored a bit more. I recently read a novel called “The Holiday Plan” by Emma Lynden about a woman who totally wanted to avoid Valentine’s Day and everything involved with it. She wanted to avoid it so much she booked a weeks’ vacation during Valentine’s week at a resort away from everyone. Except unbeknownst to her, there was a huge week-long event there for singles in honor of, you guessed it, Valentine’s Day. It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it. Whether you’re in a relationship or not.

The thing is, no matter how you feel about it, how you celebrate it, or not, it’s a day that’s here to stay. 

So if you’re not in a relationship spend the time with other friends in the same situation. Send each other flowers. Go out to dinner together, or arrange a private dinner at someone’s home. Or maybe even do a “chick flick” movie night/pajama party.

And if nothing else, just remember all that leftover valentine chocolate will be half price on February 15!

How Did Valentine’s Day Become a Thing? Part Two

Yesterday I started writing about what I’d found on line about how Valentine’s Day started and became what it is today. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d actually suggest that you do before you continue.

From what I discovered, it certainly didn’t start out in a very romantic way. Not when people were being imprisoned and beheaded.

So let me continue the story.

I had mentioned Chaucer writing that poem “Parliament of Fowls” for King Richard II, which evidently caused romantic ideas to become more popular. And no, I haven’t read it. Chaucer and other writers of the time celebrated romance between knights and their ladies, many of noble lineage, who could never marry. (Which was usually because the lady was already married, but that’s a whole other subject.) And by the 1400’s these nobles had begun writing poems known as “valentines” to the ladies who were the subject of their attention.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a guy write me a poem, and based on some of the writing I’ve seen from that era, I don’t think I’d want one. But that was a different time. Plus, since the literacy rate wasn’t real high then, could the subjects of their attentions even read them? And did those knights actually write them themselves or pay someone to do it for them? Food for another blog.

But the holiday slowly developed and evolved, with traditions that are still around today.

Exchanging cards didn’t become popular until the 1840’s when the first mass produced cards were made in the U.S.  Now, did you know that these first cards were sold by Esther A. Howland, known as the “Mother of the American Valentine”? She is evidently credited with commercializing Valentine’s Day cards here in the U.S. Although I’ve never heard of her, and probably you haven’t either, my source says she is remembered for her elaborate, crafty cards made with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures she called “scrap.” So, Hallmark, you have Ms. Esther to thank for a lot of your success! According to the last figures I saw, 145 million valentine cards are exchanged every year, not counting the homemade ones.

Which brings us to Cupid. I’d always wondered about that little guy and how he came to be associated with Valentine’s Day. After all, who goes around nearly naked with a bow and arrow shooting people, and that’s supposed to be a symbol of love?

Well, Cupid actually evolved from the Greek god of love named Eros, who was said to be a handsome immortal man with the power to make people fall in love, although I’m not sure it involved a bow and arrow. Sometime in the 4th century BC the Romans adopted Eros into their mythology, re-named him Cupid, and made him into the image of what we know today. And because he was originally known as the god of love, it sort of figured he’d become associated with Valentine’s Day, even though that didn’t happen until around the 19th century.

What about red roses? Giving flowers didn’t become a popular custom until the 17th century, It’s said that King Charles II of Sweden learned about flowers being paired with specific meanings on a trip to Persia, and when he returned home to England he introduced the tradition to Europe, and the act of giving flowers on special days, including Valentine’s Day became popular. And of course, red roses with their rich deep color, were sent to symbolize a deep love for the recipient.

Then there’s chocolate. Everyone I know loves it, and it’s especially important for Valentine’s Day. But did you know the first heart-shaped box of chocolates was created by Richard Cadbury who was the son of Cadbury founder John Cadbury. How did he come up with the idea? To increase sales, of course. The first heart shaped box of chocolates was introduced for Valentine’s Day in 1861, and today more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold each year.

Guys, are you paying attention here?

Now one more important item to discuss; those cute colorful little valentine conversation hearts. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t either received them or given them for Valentine’s Day. But do you know their history? It’s not really romantic.

It all started when Boston pharmacist Oliver Chase invented a machine that simplified the way throat lozenges were made, which also resulted in America’s first candy-making machine when Chase decided to shift his focus to making candy instead of the lozenges. He founded the New England Confectionary Company, today known as Necco. Sound familiar? And in 1866 the first messages were printed on Necco sweetheart candies. Although those were bigger than the version we have today it sure started a trend, didn’t it?

And one of the first messages? “Married in white you have chosen right.” Well, it was 1866.

So now you have all the information you’ve possibly wondered about Valentine’s Day.

But you can also research all of this yourself as well, and if you find anything different, it’s most likely because you’re looking at a different website. Let us know if you find something else.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

How Did Valentine’s Day Become a Thing? Part One

I’ve always sort of wondered about that, so this year I decided to do a little research on it. Nothing in depth, though, but I was able to find a lot of information on line.

The problem? A lot of seemingly conflicting articles that may or may not be that accurate. Or that romantic, for sure.

Now I’ve heard of St. Valentine, but really didn’t know much about him. I figured he probably was someone who spent his life bringing couples together, marrying them in romantic settings for a happily ever after. As a writer, I was hoping for a truly “A-hah!” moment that would tell the perfect story.

Well, I was wrong. Sort of. And I also discovered several different sites (Good Housekeeping, Wikipedia,  and History.com) that told different stories, so I’m going to try and condense what I came up with, but please don’t take my word for it. Do your own research. This is a blog, after all, not a history book! And I did at least name my sources,

Here’s some of what I found out.

There were actually three Saint Valentines, but the one seemingly associated with our V-Day was a 3rd century Roman priest and physician who secretly married young couples against the orders of the authorities. (Of course the marriages were illegal in the eyes of the state.) The reason? The authorities were afraid married soldiers would be distracted from their duties if they had a wife and family. He was caught and imprisoned, and eventually beheaded on, you guessed it, February 14. 

There’s also a story about another Saint Valentine during that same time period who was the Bishop of Terni. He also was said to have performed secret marriages and eventually beheaded. Then there’s possibly another Valentine who was imprisoned supposedly for attempting to help Christians escape Roman prisons where they were beaten and tortured. This Valentine was also imprisoned and supposedly sent the first valentine greeting to a young girl he’d fallen in love with (supposedly the jailer’s daughter) and signed it “from your Valentine”.

History.com says there isn’t necessarily a lot of proof to substantiate which story is true. Evidently Valentine was a popular name during those times. Real person? Three real persons? Or a myth? Your guess is as good as mine! Either way, it’s not very romantic, at least in today’s standards.

Evidently several centuries later the idea of putting romance into the St. Valentine’s feast day evolved through the writings of the English author Geoffrey Chaucer, who write a poem called “Parliament of Fowls” which contained the line “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate.” Wow, romantic sayings were sure different then! I’m not sure what that means or even has to do with love, but it was believed back then that lovebirds began mating on that day, so I guess that’s one reason. (And that’s also why we use the term “lovebirds”)

Chaucer’s poem was supposedly written to celebrate King Richard II’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia on that date. She was 16 and his second wife. It’s unclear if it was originally a love match because in those days, traditionally royal marriages were arranged for strategic purposes.

So far I’m not seeing a real romantic story here…at least nothing I’d use to suggest flowers, romantic dinners, and boxes of chocolates!

But I did find a few more less-gory tidbits in my research, that I think you’ll find interesting.

This somewhat fractured Valentine’s Day history continues tomorrow, including some interesting facts about the cards and candy we traditionally see at this time of year, with Part Two of “How Did Valentine’s Day Become a Thing?”