“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
So says Charles M. Schulz. Valentine’s Day is interpreted by many to include cards, chocolates, candlelight and roses. Some even break the bank buying expensive jewelry. Valentine’s day was named for a Christian martyr dating back to the 5th century, but according to Arnie Seipel in an essay for NPR, its origins are dark and bloody even, beginning with the wild and crazy Romans and their feast of Lupercalia.
During the Middle Ages tokens of love were first expressed by handmade paper cards. In the 14th century Chaucer helped romanticize the holiday with his love quotes like “love is blind” from The Canterbury Tales and his Parlement of Foules, featuring an assembly of birds gathered together to choose their mates. From the Renaissance to the Victorian Age and beyond, poets wrote sonnets extolling romantic love: Shakespeare, known especially during this season for Sonnet # 116, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous lines “How do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways” in Sonnet # 43.
Today, Valentine’s Day is big business. In 2011, sales reached $ 18.6 billion. This year the figure will probably exceed 20 billion. Seipel quotes Helen Fisher, a sociologist at Rutgers University, who says that if commercialization has spoiled the day, we can blame only ourselves for buying into it. But the celebration of Valentine’s Day goes on nonetheless. Even with some sayings on candy hearts we never imagined:
Years ago, candies like these were hand-picked for that special one, but many valentine cards were home-made. I remember making valentines for friends at school or punching cut-outs for classmates and dropping them in to the big, square box decorated red and white for Valentine’s Day at Rheems Elementary School. Stories in our readers illustrated children making, not buying, Valentine cards for friends:
Do you remember making or receiving hand-made valentines? Are you holding on to an old Valentine card for sentimental reasons?
Your thoughts start the conversation—or keep it going. Thank you!