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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy St. Valentine's Day

I admit it. I'm a romantic. Everyone needs love in his or her life.  I'd like to start with a few quotations that say a lot about the power of love.

"The hunger for love is more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."  Mother Theresa 

The supreme happiness in the world is the feeling that we are loved, " Victor Hugo

"To love someone deeply gives you strength. To be deeply loved by someone gives you courage." Lao Tzu
 "I love you not for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you," Ray Croft 
"You come to love, not by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly," " Sam Keene 
 As I mentionned in my last post, Valentine's Day is not just for lovers. It's a day when anyone who cares for, or appreciates someone  should let them know how they feel.  This includes fathers, mothers. brothers, sisters, children, grandparents, friends, or anyone else.
But there is no avoiding it. Today love IS in the air. Lovers will be giving their significant others roses and jewelry, or going out for candle light dinners. The radio is playing love songs all day long, and many of us are smiling at complete strangers just because it is Valentine's Day.   

Who was Saint Valentine?  
So, who was St., Valentine and why do we celebrate this day Ferbruary 14th?  Even historians can't seem to agree on the origins of Valentine's  Day.

One of the commonly agreed on stories is that  the idea of Valentine's Day started in the time of the Roman Empire. In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honour Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia.

In those days, girls and buys lived separately from each other. However, on the day before the festival of Lupercalia, girls and boys  would both write their names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. Each young man would pick a girl's name from the jar, and spend the entire day of the festival with her. Sometimes this "pairing" would last a whole year, and often, they would fall in love and later get married.

There have also been stories of three St. Valentine's. There is very little information about two of them, but the legend that has survived the longest and which historians seem to agree upon the most is the following one.

The Bishop who Married Lovers  

Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular wars. Claudius was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his army because they didn't want to leave their wives and families. Since Claudius felt thatr single men would be more likely to join the army, he cancelled all marriages and engagements and refused to allow lovers to get married.

However, Saint Valentine, a Christian Roman priest in the days of Claudius II,  refused to obey the emperor and continued to secretly pperform marriage ceremonies. Eventually, the Roman authorities caught him and put him to death. The Catholic church then made him a saint and gave him the special feast day of February 14th, the day he was supposedly executed.

Another legend is that when the emperor Claudius put Valentine in jail, he fell in love with the jailer's daughter. Before he died, he supposedly sent her a letter signed "from your Valentine. "

The return of love on St Valentine's Day 

Valentine was pretty much forgotten until the 14th century when this Christian feast day become associated with love.  According to UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine, it was Chaucer who first linked St. Valentine's Day with romance.

In 1381, Chaucer composed a poem in honor of the engagement between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. As was the poetic tradition, Chaucer associated the occasion with a feast day. In "The Parliament of Fowls," the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine's Day are linked: For this was on St. Valentine's Day,

The holiday continued to change over the next few centuries, but by the 18th century it had become customary for lovers to exchange hand made cards and gifts on Valentine's Day. Americans soon picked up on this idea, but the practice did not become really common until Esther A Howland, began mass-producing Valentine's Day cards.  

Today, the holiday has become a huge commercial success. In 2009, Valentine's Day generated an estimated $14.7 billion in U.S. retail sales. Each year, people buy about a billion Valentine's cards, 100 million roses (in a 3-day period) and 35 million heart-shaped boxes of candy. The average consumer spends $77 on Valentine's Day gifts.

Check out my next post for a few Valentine's Day links to have fun with.

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