THE DAY OF ROMANCE – by Dianne Drake
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here, and lucky me, I’ve drawn Valentine’s Day to come back. The day of romance, and chocolates, and flowers…
Personally, for me it’s just another work day. I got up this morning and did what I normally do. No one sent me flowers, I’m not particularly fond of chocolates, and when you’ve been married for as long as I have, maybe the romance hasn’t died but it’s certainly become habit. But yet the stores are full of reminders that we should be doing something special or different for someone we love. Last night, as I picked out a hasty, not-too-well-thought card for a friend, I watched a man picking out a card, and at first I was a little annoyed by how long it was taking him and how he was standing just where I wanted to be looking. But then I watched him for a while, and he was actually reading the cards… reading one after another, then putting it back. My guess is that the cards didn’t come close to expressing his sentiment for that special someone in his life.
Cynical old me was touched by what I saw, and I wondered if the recipient of his efforts would ever know the effort he spent on picking out that card, or would she simply look at it, thank him, give him the appropriate kiss on the cheek, and move on to the next activity in her day the way I probably would?
So this morning, I’ve been thinking a lot about St. Valentine’s Day, and what it is. Fact is, no one really knows the history. There are several versions, all of them having an origin of sorts in the patron saint, himself. What we do know for sure is that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. Personally, I’d always thought the holiday was contrived by the greeting card, candy or flower industry to make a buck. Seems I was wrong. It’s an ancient celebration, generally thought to date back to the 3rd or 4th century. And it centers around of all people, the martyred Saint Valentine (Valentinus) who died on February 14.
One story has Valentine, a priest, serving during the third century in Rome. When the emperor of the day decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, hating the injustice of true love being legislated out of existence, defied the emperor and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Eventually he was put to death for that. But if that’s the origin of our Valentine’s day, he’s a true hero for lovers through the ages.
Then another Valentine story has the saint being killed for helping Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. That’s the stuff of which the true, great historical romantic heroes are made, don’t you think? Finally, a third legend has an imprisoned Valentine falling in love with the jailor’s daughter, who would visit him often in his last days. Before his execution he sent her a farewell love letter signed, “From your Valentine.” What a tragic romance.
Honestly, we don’t know the truth behind the Valentine legend, but the one element that stands out is that he is a sympathetic, heroic and romantic figure who would do any romance novel proud. What we do know, though, is that St. Valentine’s day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages. That was a beautiful time in which the traditions of love flourished – lovers expressing their love by sending flowers, giving confectionaries, embellishing ornate hand-made cards and letters. I think, perhaps, it was a more thought-out occasion hundreds of years ago. But then, maybe I’m wrong. Because last night, I watched someone putting such heartfelt thought into picking out his card that he inspired me to write this blog. And maybe, he changed my mind just a little.
However you observe it – candy, flowers, a simple card or maybe just an I love you to the person you love – Happy Valentine’s Day!