There are so many theories and stories about Valentine’s Day it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.
Some accounts say there really was a Catholic priest named Valentine who existed about the 4th Century B.C. who didn’t go along with the Roman emperors’ demands that everyone worship the Roman gods, and he was thrown into prison as a result.
Legend has it that while in prison, he cured a young woman of blindness—possibly the jailer’s daughter—and that just before he was executed on February 14, he left a note, signing it “From Your Valentine.” After his death, Valentine was declared a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, and while the religious significance of his day has faded into history, the commercial world has embraced it with gusto.
We’ll never know in this life, if the story is true, but the salutation has stood the test of time and today, more than a billion notes with a similar sentiment are sent through the post, by email, passed during school lunch lines, left under pillows, accompanying boxes of chocolate, bottles of perfume, heart-shaped jewelry and of course, red roses.
Love, they say, never dies, it just continues ‘round the world. Be My Valentine, in whatever language it’s uttered, has become universal. Pictures of hearts, flowers and cupids embellish all manner of Valentine’s accoutrement , and there is a perpetual last-minute rush of men throughout the free world to come up with just the right gift or mix of gifts to make their lady love blush and their collective hearts flutter.
About.com on the Internet has this to say about Valentine’s Day: “The ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia, a spring festival, on the 15th of February, held in honor of a goddess. Young men randomly chose the name of a young girl to escort to the festivities, (some writing the names of their chosen one on their sleeves—thus the expression, ‘Wearing your heart on your sleeve.’) With the introduction of Christianity, the holiday moved to the 14th of February. The custom of choosing a sweetheart on this date spread through Europe in the Middle Ages, and then to the early American colonies.”
Another online blog, Valentines History, Symbols, Folklore & Phobias by Brownielocks says:
“St. Valentine’s Day did not come to America until 1629 with the Puritans and even here went against some of the church elders. But love prevails, whether openly or publically and the church could not hold back love and passion even in the New World. About 100 years passed before the first Valentine Cards appeared in the United States.
“Margery Brews (England) wrote the oldest known valentine in letter form dated 1477, sent to John Paston. Valentine once meant “sweetheart,” and it grew to represent “message of love.” On 2-14-1667, Samuel Pepys in his diary described a kind of valentine that he got from his wife. It was a sheet of blue paper in which her name was written in gold letters. This became the forerunner of later valentines. But the custom didn’t grow quickly. It took 100 years before it was common to leave a valentine love letter at the doorstep of your sweetheart.
“Although the Catholic Church was not thrilled with Valentines per se, the custom slowly began to grow also in Catholic countries. Surprisingly, the Valentines were made by nuns, appearing really lacy and decorated with hand-painted flowers with the center, not cupid, but often a saint or a sacred religious-styled heart. Germany is credited with providing the expensive paper and elaborate borders to Valentines in the 18th century. But they were not given on Valentine’s Day, but more often on New Year’s Day or on a person’s birthday. So the fancy German paper was imported to England and they used it for Valentines. But this paper was expensive and soon the English began to make it themselves.
“In America, hand-made Valentines appeared around 1740 and were sealed with red wax and left secretly on a lover’s doorstep (or sent in the mail). Commercial cards for the most part took over around 1880’s. But people still (and will always) make homemade ones too. Some included trinkets, some locks of hair and in some cases there were checks that were drawn against ‘The Bank of Love’ and valentines printed to look like money. One was so realistic to a 5 pound note it was quickly recalled!”
In our day and age, we prefer to “Say it with Flowers,” after all it is the FTD’s most well-known slogan. We say, “I love you” a million ways, but a single red rose or a dozen red roses seems to say it best.
At GreenAcres, we may be a health food store, but romance is not lost on us! We say it with blooming plants, chocolates, the scent of bath salts, soaps and lotions. In fact, men come to our delis to pick up dinner, grab a bouquet of flowers on their way out and even tuck a wheel of our most popular trail mix goodies under an arm just to make sure the message gets to their lady love in the nicest way possible.
We wish all our customers a happy February 14. Be our Valentines all year long!