Valentines Day is a bit of a contrived holiday, some - like my husband - would say. It is estimated a billion cards and lots and lots of chocolate and roses will fly out of stores. But, in fact, Hallmark did not manufacture this celebration. There are many legends and tales that surround the origins of this “love” holy day dating back as early as the Third Century.
My favorite comes from Slovenia where they celebrate Saint Valentine, one of the saints of spring, the saint of good health and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims. A proverb says that "Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots". Plants and flowers start to grow on this day. It has been celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards and in the fields commences. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry mid-February.
Of course, traditionalist say the origin comes from a Bishop who was sent to prison for his beliefs and sentenced to die. While waiting for his execution, he corresponded with those under his care by sending letters and love notes to his parishioners. The Bishop fell in love with a young woman who visited him during his confinement. According to some sources, this was the blind daughter of the jailer. It is said that God enabled Valentine to miraculously restore the girl's sight.
Popular belief indicates that Valentine's farewell message to his love contained a closing that has now transcended time: "From Your Valentine". The saint was executed on February 14 in 270 A.D.
A somewhat more modern tradition began during the medieval era of chivalry. The names of English maidens and bachelors were put into boxes and drawn out in pairs. Each couple exchanged gifts and the girl became the man's sweetheart for a year. He wore her name on his sleeve and was bound by duty to attend and protect her (the accepted origin of the phrase, "to wear one's heart on one's sleeve"). This old custom of drawing names was considered a good omen for love and often foretold a wedding.
In 1537, King Henry VIII declared, by Royal Charter, that all England would celebrate February 14 as "Saint Valentine's Day" with Saint Valentine becoming the accepted Patron Saint of Lovers.
I find it interesting that in all these traditions, love was a promise even more than a present reality.
Here in the middle of February when the ground is still hard and cracked – the promise of Spring is longed for even more than felt. If we have an eye to see, however, there are buds forming on trees. We can see the birds getting busy again. We can look out the dreary window of confinement, or we can compose notes of love and encouragement and send them out into a month that can certainly use some sweetness.
Whether you fancy chocolate or flowers, poems or balloons, I encourage you to keep this love tradition alive, by decree of Henry the VIII who loved his wives to death. (Okay, maybe not that much, but stay warm by watching the Netflix series that chronicles his life, “The Tudors” if you find yourself stuck inside a few more weeks waiting for the ground to thaw.)
Happy Valentine's Day