Monday, February 4, 2013

Traditions: Valentine's Day

Welcome to February, the shortest (and therefore more glorious) of the winter months.  And that means that Valentine's Day is just around the corner!  How did that happen?!?  This week we'll be celebrating a little early with a "Hearts" theme.  Stay tuned all week for an Etsy Shop update and projects and inspirations to get you in the mood for love!

I did a little research to see where Valentine's Day originated.  In around 270 AD, the Roman Empire had expanded to the point where it was no longer feasible to defend its borders or rule over its citizens.  The empire was under attack from all sides, and the emperor needed a strategy to strengthen his army.  He believed that men who are single made better soldiers because they fought like they didn't have anything to lose.  So he outlawed marriage.  Sure...that's logical.  :o/

Along came Saint Valentine.  He saw how distraught young, star-crossed lovers were that they were no longer permitted to marry.  So he started performing wedding ceremonies in secret.  Eventually he was discovered and thrown into prison.  His jailer had a daughter who was blind.  According to legend, Valentine healed the jailer's daughter, and they formed a friendship.  Valentine was sentenced to death, but before he was executed, he wrote a letter to the jailer's daughter and signed it, "From your Valentine."

It wasn't until a few centuries later that Valentine's Day became associated with romance.  Apparently, the impetus was a poem written by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382 that contained the line "For this was on Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."  Now don't get me wrong...I'm a Chaucer fan.  (I actually started out as an English major in college largely due to Paul Bettany's Chaucer in A Knight's Tale.  Again...very logical.)  But I don't really see how that line fueled a romantic frenzy.  Nevertheless, that's how it happened, or so my sources say.  Young lovers started to use Saint Valentine's Day to send one another gifts and love letters.  By the early 1800s, paper Valentines were being mass-produced in England, and by the 1850s, the industry had expanded to the States.  And it was all downhill from there.

Personally, I've gone through stages when I've said that I hate Valentine's Day...that it is just an excuse for greeting card and candy companies to exploit people who are in love.  But even in my most outwardly cynical state, I have always been a romantic at heart and had great expectations for the day.  This is something that it took my husband, Jason, a few years to figure out.  We had a string of dismal Valentine's Days in our dating years.  But since we've been married, I've tried to be better about making my expectations very clear instead of wanting Jason to be a mind reader.  Our Valentine's Day tradition is now pretty straightforward: Jason and I write each other love letters, and I don't have to make dinner.  And that makes for a lovely day.

I'd love to hear about your Valentine's Day traditions.  Do you exchange gifts?  Do you do something special for your kids?  Do you hide in a closet and wait for February 15th?  How do you let the special people in your life know that they are loved?

1 comment:

  1. Our tradition is a "red" themed dinner (by candlelight, of course - we even did this when our kids were little), a heart shaped cake for dessert and/or valentine shaped cookies, and the exchanging of lovely mushy, sentimental valentine cards.