Valentines Day is for lovers. But we also know that the notion of Valentines Day started way back when we were children. If you share my recollection, Valentines Day may have been celebrated with a close relative, or, perhaps, with a schoolmate, by receiving several of those little cards that are distributed during class parties. Your mother, or grandmother, no doubt, received a special box of chocolate in a beautifully decorated heart shaped box.
Looking back in history, however, we find traces of myths, which differentiate from the basis of the customs that we follow so closely today.
There was a time when February 14th was known as “Saint Valentines Day”. But surely to eliminate any religious connotation, it has long since evolved into a “lovers” holiday, bearing the name Valentines Day. Carrying with it the foundations of both ancient Roman and Christian rituals, there are many legends, which have been associated with Saint Valentine. One legend emphasizes a romantic overtone and significantly relates to the correlation of a tribute to lovers and romance. It portrays Valentine, a priest serving during the reign of Claudius II, who secretly performed marriages between soldiers and their sweethearts before going into battle. As the Emperor forbade these marriages, Valentine was put to death. February 14, circa 270 A.D., is presumably the day of his execution, and as such, this solemn event is commemorated in his honor. “Doing anything for love” is a phrase used metaphorically, but as you can see, can often be catastrophic!
Many a love story has ended in tragedy, as we well know. Shakespeare wrote about it in Romeo and Juliet. Jerome Robbins developed his rendition of a similar tale written by Arthur Laurents, in West Side Story. But for the vast majority, Valentines Day is an esteemed occasion filled with happiness and adoration. There’s a special warmth that emanates on this day, for the young and not so young.
My memories of Valentines Day are tender and most vivid. I can still recall my second grade classroom engaging in an exchange of valentine cards, and sharing cupcakes. I remember clearly a Valentine processional synchronized to the song, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”, and feeling like a queen that day. And most memorable and loving, I cherish the spectacular chocolates in a heart shaped box that were given to me every year as a little girl by my Uncle Ciro. Such a gesture of affection, I will never forget. To this day, Valentines Day is not complete without this delectable confection. For me, it secures the sentiments of my life.