By Carol Mowdy Bond
Whether you have your Christmas lights down or not, we’re staring at another popular holiday. Valentine’s Day is celebrated annually on February 14 in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
In the U.S., the sale of Valentine’s Day cards is second only to Christmas cards. The Greeting Card Association estimates 45 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent annually. And that doesn’t even account for all the flowers and gifts and conversation hearts and heart-shaped boxes of goodies. Dark chocolate. Milk chocolate. Soft centers. Nougat. Red roses. Pink roses. Teddy bears. It’s time to let that special someone know your faves.
Deborah Sandman is ready! When you enter her Yukon Flowers & Gifts, at 121 W. Main Street in Yukon, you’ll find two huge stuffed animals having a Valentine’s Day party. And her shop is stocked full of floral arrangements, gifts and gift baskets, stuffed animals, and even a few gifts you may not have considered. And she’s expecting another Valentine’s Day shipment this week. Discussing the myriad of gift options waiting in her shop, Sandman said, “We try!”
Dean Buchanan, the store manager for Williams Discount Foods at 410 Piedmont Road S. in Piedmont, said customers have already purchased almost all of the store’s Valentine’s Day candy. But Mary Truman, the assistant manager, showcased a table where some of the sweet goodies are still waiting. Part of the cake decorating crew, Heather Daugherty, pointed to heart-shaped cakes, in both white and red velvet flavors, that she decorated, and that are priced at $6.99. As well, she pointed out the cookie cakes she decorated, that range in price from $11.99 to $13.99. Timm Williams, who works in produce, said last October he ordered floral bouquets for this year’s Valentine’s Day. Williams said, “The bouquets should be here no later than February 11.” Each bouquet will include one dozen roses.
ORIGINS OF VALENTINE’S DAY
History.com tells that the Catholic Church has at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus. And all were martyred by Roman emperors. Despite the mystery surrounding the real patron saint of the annual day of love, the stories of all three men tell of a heroic figure who was sympathetic, and also a romantic figure.
But truth be told, the annual February holiday has origins in both Christian and ancient Roman traditions.
Complicating the issue is the celebration of Lupercalia. A fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus, Lupercalia was a pagan celebration. The celebration was also related to women finding their future husbands. It’s possible that Christians placed their St. Valentine’s feast day in mid-February so they could “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.
WAS CUPID A CHUBBY CHERUB?
The Roman god, Cupid, stems from Greek mythology’s god of love. Known as Eros, he was immortal and handsome, and he used golden arrows to incite love. But he also used leaden arrows to sow aversion. Cupid later evolved into the mischievous, chubby cherub that we recognize on Valentine’s Day cards.
VICTORIAN AND VINEGAR VALENTINES
Fast forward to the Middle Ages where we find Saint Valentine as one of the most popular saints in England and France. During the 17th century, Valentine’s Day became a popular celebration in Great Britain. And actually, during the Victorian era, the British put the full romantic spin on the day, complete with lace and frills and all things fancy. But even into the 20th century, Victorian-era valentines could also be nasty and mean. Known as “vinegar valentines,” the British apparently sent large numbers of these hostile valentines that were meant to offend, or to fend off enemies or unwanted suitors. That must be where Cupid’s leaden arrows made their biggest impact.
Richard Cadbury’s dad John Cadbury founded the British Cadbury’s cocoa and chocolate company, which emerged during the Victorian era. The Cadburys were perfecting chocolate, and came up with a great chocolate to eat. At the time, it was called “eating chocolate.”
Ever the marketing guru, Richard began selling eating chocolates in beautiful boxes that he designed. Though we don’t know for sure, it’s possible that Richard crafted the first heart-shaped box for the chocolates. These served two purposes. First, they held the eating chocolates. And second, after the chocolates were consumed, the boxes were so beautiful that people liked to keep them and use them for other purposes. One thing led to another and the heart-shaped boxes full of chocolates became a Valentine’s Day staple.
WHY THE COLOR RED?
The color red and Valentine’s Day go hand and hand. As a color, red stands for strength, energy, power, danger, passion, love, and desire.
Studies have been done using the color red in all sorts of scenarios. One study’s results show that looking at the color red increases a person’s heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. The studies are all over the map and connected to all kinds of topics. The color pink is also associated with Valentine’s Day. Again, lots of studies are involved, Nuff said.