BY LES McCARTHY
February 11, 2015
In a few days Cupid’s arrows will shoot through the air and countless hopeful/hopeless romantics will have their day. I love Valentine’s Day. I don’t know if it stems from my extreme fondness of all things pink and red, or my love of everything shiny, glittery or lacy, or that I just love that people have “an excuse” to express their adoration.
Whatever the reason, I love it— and that I, too, am one of those romantics doesn’t hurt, either.
It is the time of year when gloom seems to reign and a bit of glittery pink and red is welcome amidst whatever winter might be bringing.
Who doesn’t like Valentine’s Day?
I remember, as a child in school, the excitement of decorating our tissue boxes for the Big Day. I couldn’t wait for all those sweet and cheesy love notes! Apparently, the apple didn’t fall far from my family tree. My grandmother, born in 1903, saved her Valentines from year to year and then stuffed the whole lot into her decorated box leaving her classmates imagining that she was the most popular kid amongst them! Perhaps not the most popular, but surely the most cunning!
When I was little, an elderly neighbor dropped off a Valentine for me…it was one of those cards (in the early ‘60s) that was a cut-out of an animal with fuzzy “fur” on it. Inside was a little cellophane bag of red hot candies. It was probably my first Valentine from someone other than family and I felt so very special. I owe old Mrs. Wisniewski for the early pitter-pattering of my heart.
A few years later, I entered a contest for the best homemade Valentine at our local grocery store. I used a shirt box, gold and red doilies, a ream of construction paper, and a vat of glue and glitter. I won first place and an inflatable plastic bull! Whatever that had to do with Valentine’s Day I have yet to figure out, but hey—I won! With that win my creative and inner artist came ever more alive and Valentine’s Day, for me, was never the same ever again.
I love Valentine’s Day because you get to be a child again—you have reason to get out the glitter and glue, you can write an entire love letter using only candy conversation hearts—and then your intended can eat it, and because everyone has the opportunity to profess their adoration, via simple or grand gestures and indulgences that on any other day might seem nonsensical or overly extravagant.
Or maybe I’m just a sentimental soul for all things LOVE.
Tolstoy said, “Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love.”
NECCO said, “I C U R A Q T.”
Some people think that Valentine’s Day is one of those “Hallmark” holidays manufactured by the greedy business owners of flower and candy shops portraying love by dollars spent and fueling consumerism and commercialism, striking guilt into the heart of people who forget, causing arguments amongst those who don’t buy into the whole “holiday” and heartache for the forgotten or unattached.
I’ve seen my share of jewelry store ads this week; I know commercialism and consumerism revolve around this holiday. And yet, I don’t seem to mind. I say, “Bring it on!” I am tickled with the thought of a holiday that honors all that is love and romance and matters of the heart whether man-made, natural or store-bought.
I have no problem whatsoever with heart-shaped boxes of candy, red ribbon-tied boxes of lingerie, or anything homemade. If it comes from the heart, how can you not love that?
But how, you may ask, did Valentine’s Day come about? Read on.
Saint Valentine’s Day (according to my online sources and a very fragile 1910 encyclopedia) is a holiday observed on February 14th honoring one or more of the Christian martyrs named (yep)…Saint Valentine.
There are three renditions of how this all started. In the first story, Saint Valentine was persecuted as a Christian, and after Roman Emperor Claudius II failed to convert him to paganism and Saint Valentine failed to convert the Emperor to Christianity, he was executed. However, before his demise he performed a miracle and restored the sight of the jailor’s blind daughter. That story isn’t exactly romantic nor does it make me want to get out my construction paper and doilies and start making hearts.
The second rendition comes closer to providing a connection with romantic love. Here we have Roman Emperor (Claudius II again) ruling the lands. Seeking to expand his army, he allegedly ordered that all young men remain single, believing that married men did not make good soldiers. In steps good old Saint Valentine—herald of conversation-heart candies and singing telegrams (not really)—who in defiance of the edict and in the name of love, married the young men to their betrothed. When the Emperor found this out he was not pleased and threw Saint Valentine into jail…and soon thereafter had him beheaded. This also does not make me want to get out the glitter and glue and red, shiny heart stickers or eat chocolate covered cherries.
Version three has Saint Valentine, for whatever reason, in jail. On the eve of his execution he (got out the glitter, glue, red and shiny heart stickers, construction paper and doilies) and made the first ever “Valentine” card. He sent it to the jailor’s lovely daughter, signing it “From Your Valentine,” leaving her with his heart for all eternity and (apparently) opening up the gates for the modern-day greeting card industry!
Oh, I just love a good story!
So, whatever version you like, we owe it to Saint Valentine’s devotion to love for this lovely little holiday and the excuse to eat an entire box of Turtles by oneself. Share the versions of the stories; if you really want to impress your love, recite the real poem stating that roses are red and violets are blue. It dates back to 1784 and was found in a collection of English nursery rhymes in Gammer Gurton’s Garland:
The rose is red, the violet’s blue. The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine: I drew thee to my Valentine.
The lot was cast and then I drew, and Fortune said it shou’d be you.
Any holiday that promotes showing your love to someone else and eating candy all day long is a good day! Those that truly balk at this holiday, I figure, just need more chocolate!
So, make it special. Give a kid a Valentine, stuff your neighbor’s mailbox full of hearts and candies, smile at a stranger, give yourself flowers, write a poem, hold hands with someone you love, go eat some mussels or pop some champagne!
You still have a few days to come up with something extra special for your someone special and this island and all its offerings (trails and beaches to walk or picnic, floral, chocolate and jewelry shops, galleries, wineries, restaurants, tour and class offerings, concerts) is the perfect place to figure out exactly that! Go ahead, on this one day, unleash your inner Cupid!
And if nothing else comes to mind…you can always get out the glitter and glue.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
(All photos by Les McCarthy)
Les McCarthy is an author, entrepreneur and IPPY bronze medalist for her yearly “Healthy Living ~ Healthy Life: 365 Days of Nutrition & Health for the Family” calendars. She is still somewhat new to the island and the NW and loves every raindrop that isn’t a snowflake. She joyfully tends to her geriatric fur factory, neighborhood deer, squirrels and slugs.
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