SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14: Love notes, red roses, chocolates and cupid’s arrows decorate Valentine’s Day around the world, so tell your loved ones how you feel: “That’s amore!” An Italian greeting might be appropriate in honor of the feast day for this ancient Roman-Christian martyr known as St. Valentine.
CALLING CHOCOLATE LOVERS
An estimated 1 billion cards are exchanged on Valentine’s Day each year in the U.S., with many also purchasing flowers, candies and other gifts. Americans account for $20 billion of the $50 billion worldwide chocolate industry, according to trade publications. The U.S. companies Mars and Hershey’s account for two-thirds of U.S. production—which rises and falls, each year, around holidays including Easter, Christmas and of course Valentine’s Day.
Did you know? “Among the people you can thank for this wonderful Valentine’s Day tradition of giving chocolate: Montezuma, Hernan Cortes and Richard Cadbury.” To learn more about that delicious history (and get a yummy recipe for chocolate mousse), check out Bobbie Lewis’s FeedTheSpirit column this week.
Compared with the history of chocolate, the history of the saint behind this holiday is mysterious, indeed, and parts of the story are more legend than documented fact. For that reason, in 1969, the Vatican removed St. Valentine from the “General Roman Calendar,” the official registry of saints and their feast days. However, this saint is so beloved that Catholics are free to observe feast days locally and regionally—and millions do so every year.
The problem is that “Valentine” was a popular name in the 3rd Century—and for many years after that. At least two, and most likely several, Valentines were very early Christian martyrs. By the 6th Century, Christian leaders were blending their stories into a single heroic tale. Sorting out those records got even more complicated when a dozen more Valentines eventually were regarded as saints—piling up through the centuries in various corners of the Christian Church.
Usually, Valentine is described as a courageous and brilliant defender of Christianity, as a compassionate man who tried to help men and women who were endangered during the period of Roman persecution—and as a priest who performed Christian marriages, including weddings for Roman soldiers and their wives at a time when that practice was illegal. According to legend, Valentine was such a striking figure that Roman Emperor Claudius II personally interrogated him, a practice that would have been quite rare in the Roman court. As the story goes, Valentine refused to recant his faith; the emperor refused to budge; Valentine performed a couple of final miracles (including healing his jailer’s daughter)—and Valentine was killed on February 14.
Looking for a Christian twist on Valentine’s greetings? Get inspiration for a DIY card from Solomon’s Canticle of Canticles, a book that uses marital love as a metaphor for God’s love for the Church.
ADDING THE ROMANCE
The earliest known association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules (1382 CE), written for the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. One of the earliest valentine messages still in existence is a 15th-century poem written by Charles, the Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was being held in the Tower of London.
By 1797, valentines were becoming so popular that a British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, full of suggestions for verses in valentine greetings. Cards with verses were already being printed at the time of the Valentine Writer, and numbers of mailed valentines began to soar. (Wikipedia has details.) By 18th-century England, lovers were exchanging flowers and sweets along with greetings. Today, it’s estimated that average Valentine’s Day spending is upward of $100 per person.
MORE RECIPES AND CRAFTS
Gifts may be a nice gesture, but Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to cost a fortune—especially with the DIY ideas from Martha Stewart, DIY Network and Real Simple! The Washington Post recently published an article on how to say “I love you” without breaking the bank.
Kids can craft Valentine’s Day greetings with help from Disney’s Family Fun.