by LeAnn R. Ralph
(Saint Valentine died 1,700 years ago. And today,
we're still sending Valentines. . .)
Just as soon as the stores put away their Christmas
merchandise, out comes the Valentine’s Day items — even
though Valentine’s is still more than six weeks away.
I don’t know why, but it always takes me by surprise to
see Valentine’s Day merchandise so soon after Christmas.
I’ve always wondered where Valentine’s Day came from,
and under those circumstances, a person could be
forgiven for thinking it was invented to create more
business when Christmas is over.
But no, after a little research, I discovered that
Valentine’s is not a holiday that was “invented” by
greeting card companies to sell more greeting cards or
by candy companies to sell more candy or by florists to
sell more roses.
Valentine’s Day actually started more than 1,500 years ago.
According to legend, Valentine was a priest who defied
the orders of the Roman emperor Claudius and continued
to perform marriages. It seems that Claudius realized
no young men wanted to join his army because they
didn’t want to leave their wives and sweethearts. When
it was discovered that Valentine was still performing
marriages in secret, he was sentenced to death.
Valentine allegedly cured the jailer’s daughter of
blindness, and on the night before his execution, sent
a note to her signed “from your Valentine.” He
reportedly died on Feb. 14, 269 A.D.
In 496 A.D., February 14 was named by Pope Gelasius to
honor St. Valentine.
The first Valentines are credited to Charles, Duke of
Orleans, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London
during the 1400s where he wrote romantic verses that he
sent to his wife.
A woman named Esther Howland is credited with sending
the first Valentine in the United States.
The United States Postal Service is credited with
advancing the popularity of sending Valentines when the
penny postcard was introduced in the mid 1800s. Before
that, sending mail was too expensive for the average
person, because at the time, the person who RECEIVED
the letter paid the postage and not the person who SENT
Personally, I’m thankful it’s not that way today. Can
you imagine paying the postage to receive your
In days gone by, Valentines were hand-painted cards
decorated with lace and feathers and sequins.
I don’t know about anybody else, but if I were going to
hand paint a Valentine and decorate it with lace and
feathers and sequins, I wouldn’t go to all that work
for just anybody.
Nowadays, however, Valentine’s cards are mass produced
in thousands of designs and sizes — large ones and
small ones; serious ones and silly ones; inexpensive
ones and expensive ones.
The variety of Valentine’s cards is overwhelming and,
as far as I’m concerned, rather unnecessary. I mean,
how many Valentine’s cards does one person need to buy?
Spouse? Parents? Siblings? Second and third cousins?
The teacher you had in fifth grade? The lady who cuts
your hair? The grocery store clerk who tallied up your
last purchase? The man who stopped his car so you could
make it through the crosswalk without being run over?
And what about the Valentine’s merchandise? The candy,
the posters, the teddy bears sporting a red heart that
says ‘Be Mine,’ socks with little red hearts all over
them, heart-shaped rings, necklaces and earrings, and
the list goes on and on.
I wonder what the real St. Valentine would think of the
cards and the candy and the jewelry and whatever else?
Then again, maybe the real St. Valentine would be
delighted by this turn of events.
After all, it’s been more than 1,700 years since he
died, but every Feb. 14, people are still celebrating
And that puts giving Valentines into a whole new
perspective, doesn’t it.
Find an Excuse to Love
"Some children just need more love." I don't know
how many times I heard Mrs. Tucker say that.
Mrs. Tucker was a 73-year-old woman who worked
with me in an after-school daycare program. She rarely missed an opportunity
to show warmth and affection to a child.
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