Origins & Memories of Valentine’s Day

According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately 1 billion Valentine cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-giving occasion in the world! So many of us seek out heartwarming, huggable gifts for Valentine’s Day — but how did this holiday come to exist in the first place?

Celebrated annually in many countries, one legend contends that the holiday originated as a liturgical celebration of the Christian saint Valentinus. During the third century in Rome, Emperor Claudius II felt that single men made better soldiers than men with wives and children, so he decreed that young men in the service could not marry. St. Valentine, a Roman priest, felt that this was an injustice and continued performing weddings for young, love-struck soldiers. He was arrested, jailed and ordered to die for defying the decree. While imprisoned, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and, prior to his execution, wrote her a farewell letter signed, “From your Valentine.”

Valentine’s Day itself was first associated with affection and romantic love in 1382 when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem about love birds, Parlement of Foules (“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate”). Today, Valentine’s Day is also known as Feast of Saint Valentine, an official feast day in the Lutheran Church and Anglican Communion.

Celebrated on Feb. 14 by the Western Christian Churches and on July 7 by the Eastern Christian Churches, it has evolved into an annual occasion for expressing love through the exchange of gifts adorned with hearts, doves and winged cupids, as well as flowers, jewelry and chocolate. This year, for a more thoughtful and personal gift that will last long after flowers have dried up and chocolates have been eaten, try customizing a tumbler with your special photos!

A Valentine Remembrance

My Dad grew up in Maine during the Depression and learned at a very young age to be extremely frugal. When he passed away last year at the age of 92, his Yankee frugality was as strong as ever! He worked hard for many years (often holding down several jobs at the same time), and made it a habit early on to put a portion of each paycheck into savings. Consequently, it was very difficult for him to spend his hard-earned money… so, for us, Valentine’s Day was always on Feb. 15!

You see, Daddy was very generous. My parents were married for 68 years and the gift he gave to Mom, their two daughters, his daughter-in-law, four granddaughters, three great granddaughters and mother-in-law each year will never be forgotten. That gift was a heart-shaped box of chocolates purchased on Feb. 15 at half off the original price! Mom’s was always the most elaborate — Godiva in a lovely fabric keepsake heart-shaped box with an elegant  satin sash, filled with delicious limited-edition dark chocolate truffles, milk chocolate mousse, white praline and dark-chocolate ganache chocolates. We won’t be receiving our heart-shaped box of chocolates this Feb. 15, but the memory of his love, affection, and thoughtful gesture will linger forever.

Do you have special Valentine’s Day memories? Share them in the comments!

 – Judi Bauer