Saturday, February 14, 2015

3 Fun Facts About St. Valentine's Day

Although it will probably be a little hard on my ego, I'm hoping most of you haven't noticed I've been AWOL for several months. I have a good reason, I had some health issues, but I'm doing just fine now and am ready to celebrate my return by talking about Valentine's Day.

Which, sadly, doesn't have a whole lot to do with romantic love.

At least two men named Valentinus were named St. Valentine but only one of them was ever given full sainthood in any venue. Both were supposedly imprisoned and later executed for performing wedding ceremonies for soldiers, who were forbidden to wed (go figure) and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire.

Although both men were at one time designated saints, the Valentinus  who died on the 14th of February on the Via Flaminia close to the Milvian bridge in Rome still remains on am officially recognized list. Saint Valentine's Church in Rome, built in 1960 for the needs of the Olympic Village, continues as a modern, well-visited parish church.

What makes this St. Valentine rise above the other? The story is that in addition to his ministry to soldiers and Christians, he healed the daughter of his jailer from blindness. Sadly, he was stoned and beheaded anyway ("Oh, not fair. No good deed goes unpunished, right?").  As legend has it, before his execution he wrote a letter to Asterius and signed it, 'Your Valentine.' (What? Where is Cupid and his arrows of love when you need him?)

We have to go back to the Canterbury Tales for that answer. In the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages the tradition of romantic, courtly love flourished. During this era men swore their love to beautiful women, many were married. Courtly love was a chaste love, expressed through gifts and songs and gallant acts. Even a kiss would have violated the intent. By the seventeen hundreds it evolved into a major holiday. Lovers gave each other flowers and sweets and sent cards that soon became known as valentines (chances are the chaste part also evolved). By then, other symbols had entered the game – the heart outline, doves, Cupid. Sweethearts, particularly those living in America, spend generously on this day.

All celebrated holidays require some expense. In the battle for who spends the most, Valentine's Day overcomes Halloween. Americans are expected to spend $17.6 billion on candy, balloons, paper cards and other tokens of love. At Halloween, Americans spent $6.86 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. But those who celebrate Valentine's Day shell out over a hundred dollars per person (holy moley). Halloween, by comparison, earns less than seventy-five dollars per person. Money aside, Halloween remains the more popular holiday. Seventy percent of adults surveyed celebrate Halloween, compared to only sixty percent Valentine's Day.

Do kids even hand out valentine's anymore. Remember when we were kids and we didn't want to give our valentine's to the 'icky' kids but our parents and teachers made us. The holiday was a big deal then and it seemed to me that the whole world exchanged cards and gifts. How much had it changed in a world where it seems every month has a holiday? What about you? Is Valentine's Day a big deal between you and your honey? Is it worth more than a hundred dollars? Or is Halloween more your style with its zany costumes and rowdy parties. Since Christmas holidays are in a different league we can't really compare so let me hear your thoughts of your other favorite holidays.

To Connie Flynn Site