Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All the Fuss over Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. Most of us celebrate it, in our own unique ways. Some swear by the ever-popular flowers and chocolates. Others give Valentines lovingly made by hand. Still others insist a cuddly stuffed animal is the only way to go. But who is this St. Valentine, and why do we celebrate this holiday? The Catholic Church today recognizes at least 3 saints named Valantine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. (Hmmm. that's not very romantic!)

According to one legend, "Valentine" actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young blind girl — she may have been his jailor's daughter — who visited him during his confinement.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. At the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters thanks to improvements in printing technology. The Victorians frowned upon direct expressions of feeling, so ready-made cards were a perfect way for people to express their feelings. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s, though the first mass-produced valentines did not appear until the 1840's.

Raphael Tuck was a prolific designer of cards during the Victorian era. I've been collecting silk-fringed greeting cards for years, and the Tuck Valentines are my favorites among the many dozens I've amassed. Not surprisingly, because they are beautifully adorned with flowers!

Valentine's Day is celebrated every year all over the world on February 14, with flowers being the most popular gift by far.

Roses, especially red and pink roses, are the favorites of lovers on the Valentines Day since they have been a symbol of love right from the Victorian times. This may stem from the belief that the rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the goddess of love. But giving flowers as gifts began as far back as the 1700's when Charles II of Sweden introduced the Persian custom of the "language of flowers" to Europe.

Not surprisingly, men purchase the vast majority of flowers and candy for Valentine's Day. But, surveys have been conducted in the past that show men love being the recipients of flowers as well!

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