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.
Years ago students looked forward to Valentine’s Day. Homeroom mothers were generous and thoughtful, providing a party for the children. In my case, it was Mrs. Clark Bailey and Mrs. J. Ray Rice and Mrs. John Byrd Hensley. Valentines could be purchased at the dime store for just pennies. Each homeroom had an individual valentine box decorated by two or three of the girls. Their hat and shoe boxes were procured from local merchants and then ornately decorated with crepe paper and lacy dollies. In some classes, students had their own individual boxes into which their classmates stuffed a variety of hearts and verses. One which comes to mind is, “You’re dirty and smelly and stink like a dog. You in the garden just like a hog. Happy Valentine’s Day.” These insulting verses were known as comic valentines, greatly preferred by the boys in the class.
St. Valentine was a priest near Rome in about the year 270 A.D, a time when the church was in great persecution. His ministry was to help the Christians to escape this persecution, and to provide them the sacraments, such as marriage, which was outlawed by the Roman Empire at that time. Legend has it that Saint Valentine performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make good soldiers. According to legend, in order to “remind them of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians,” Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on Saint Valentine’s Day.
In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts. Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped box. In the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine’s Day as an occasion for giving jewelry. The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. When you include the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines
Often as an icon of Valentine’s Day, Cupid is shown shooting his arrow to inspire romantic love. In Roman mythology, Cupid (Latin Cupido, meaning “desire”) is the god of affection and erotic love. He is often portrayed as the son of the goddess Venus. A person, or even a deity, who is shot by Cupid’s arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire.
In America people are allowed to celebrate Valentine’s Day with cards, flowers, presents, candy, love songs and special gatherings. Not some in some countries, for instance, in Saudi Arabia, people are not free to celebrate the holiday. Indeed, the government has banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, as the day is considered a Christian holiday. Isn’t that a pity? Those of us who have the pleasure of living in the United States of America and enjoying all of its freedoms should bear in mind that all the people of the world do not have that privilege. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours and God bless America.