Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day

There are several tales that explain the history and origins of Valentine’s Day, a tradition second only to Christmas for sending heartfelt greetings.

Valentine's Day evokes goodness toward our fellow human beings with thoughts surrounded by the reds and pinks of flowers, cards and small tokens of our feelings. It is so very nice to have this time to tell another or several others if we are fortunate enough how much we love them. According to legend the Roman Emperor Claudius may have indirectly responsible for promoting love and marriage and eventually the celebration of Valentines' Day.

The following letter better explains the story of Valentine's Day:

“Let me introduce myself. My name is Valentine. I lived in Rome during the third century. At that time, Rome was ruled by an emperor named Claudius. Claudius decided to have a huge army. Men were expected to volunteer and join the army. Many men just did not want to fight in wars. They did not want to leave their wives and families. Not many men volunteered. This made Claudius furious. He had a crazy idea. He believed that if men were not married, they would concentrate on fighting wars and not think about their loved ones. Claudius decreed that soldiers were not to marry and have families. Young people thought his new law was cruel. I thought it was preposterous! I refused to support the law!

“Did I mention that I was a priest? One of my favorite activities was to marry couples. Even after Emperor Claudius passed his law, I kept on performing marriage ceremonies - secretly, of course. It was really quite exciting. Imagine a small candlelit room with only the bride and groom and myself. We would whisper the words of the ceremony, listening all the while for the steps of soldiers.

“One night, we did hear footsteps. It was frightening! Thank goodness the couple I was marrying escaped in time. I was caught. (Not quite as light on my feet as I used to be, I guess.) I was thrown in jail and told I was to be put to death. “I tried to stay cheerful. And do you know what? Wonderful things happened. Many young people came to the jail to visit me. They threw flowers and notes up to my window. They wanted me to know that they, too, believed in love “One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit me in the cell. Sometimes we would sit and talk for hours. She helped me to keep my spirits up. She agreed that I did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and going ahead with the secret marriages. On the day I was to die, I left my friend a little note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. I signed it, "Love from your Valentine." “I believe that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine's Day. It was written on the day I died, February 14, 269. Now, every year on this day, people remember. But most importantly, they think about love and friendship. And when they think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh -- because they know that love can't be beaten!”

And yet a third references birds’ mating times:

During the Middle Ages, people in England and France held a popular belief that birds started to look for a mate from February 14.

I love the traditions of Valentine’s Day cards, which are often sent to people in secret with no signature, leaving the person wondering and sometimes hoping who had sent the greeting. Boxes of chocolate are popular ways to express one’s sweet affections for one’s true love. Roses are another way which people have continued to use to demonstrate their devotion. Some people actually go to great lengths to put together rather more thoughtful gifts such as meaningful photo albums. This is also a very popular date to propose marriage. Going out to dinner or a dress up ball are traditions carried out in many places as well.

No matter which tale you want to believe, the thoughts around this special day involve loving others even more than we love ourselves. I enjoy days like this which are thankfully sprinkled throughout the year to remind us, like punctuation marks, that it is other people for whom we really live. If only we could all carry these feeling the whole year round!

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