Sunday, February 14, 2010
Above all things.. Love
How many time have you loved and swore you would never love again?
Do you remember your first kiss?
How many promises did we make to love one another for ever and ever ~ and yet one day that love just dissolved?
It is Valentine's Day. High pressure to find yourself saturated in L'amour.
Historically, Valentine's Day is an annual holiday held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. The holiday is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering candy, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines").
The holiday first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. (See gentlemen, you have Chaucer to blame for the pressure!) Drat, that Chaucer!
Apparently the "love" portion can be found in Chaucer's Parlement of Foules (1382).
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
["For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."]
There you have it. A Day to choose your Mate. WOWza.
Using the language of the law courts for the rituals of courtly love, a "High Court of Love" was established in Paris on Valentine's Day in 1400.
(Of course - the FRENCH)
According to Wikipedia, the court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. Judges were selected by women on the basis of a poetry reading. (How cool is that?)
I discovered that the earliest surviving valentine is a fifteenth-century rondeau written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, which commences.
Je suis desja d'amour tannéMa tres doulce Valentinée…
—Charles d'Orléans , Rondeau VI, lines 1–2
At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415.
Another piece I found Valentine's Day mentioned is done ruefully by Ophelia in Hamlet (1600-1601):
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
—William Shakespeare , Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5 - oh that Billy sure knew a thing or two about melodrama.
But what about more modern times? I know that most of the books I have one Love Poetry, and other truly divine works were all quite old. When did the whole need for a Valentine's Day card become essential? Wouldn't the card be considered the poetry of today?
I did a little research and found that.. and if you consider this more modern (heck, compared to the middle ages, it was) - in 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which contained scores of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own.
Printers had already begun producing a limited number of cards with verses and sketches, called “mechanical valentines,” and a reduction in postal rates in the next century ushered in the less personal but easier practice of mailing valentines. That, in turn, made it possible for the first time to exchange cards anonymously, which is taken as the reason for the sudden appearance of racy verse in an era otherwise prudishly Victorian. OH HOW I LOVE A GOOD SCANDAL!
Paper Valentines being so popular in England in the early 1800s, Valentines began to be assembled in factories. Fancy Valentines were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid 1800's. Right below and to the right is an example of the lace and ribbon Valentine.
The reinvention of Saint Valentine's Day in the 1840s has been traced by Leigh Eric Schmidt. As a writer in Graham's American Monthly observed in 1849, "Saint Valentine's Day... is becoming, nay it has become, a national holyday." In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland (1828-1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts.
This pic here is an Ester Howland.
Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts in the United States, usually from a man to a woman.
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 day has come to be associated with a generic platonic greeting of "Happy Valentine's Day."
As a joke, Valentine's Day is also referred to as "Singles Awareness Day."
In some North American elementary schools, children decorate classrooms, exchange cards, and eat sweets. The greeting cards of these students sometimes mention what they appreciate about each other.
The rise of Internet popularity at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions. Millions of people use, every year, digital means of creating and sending Valentine's Day greeting messages such as e-cards, love coupons or printable greeting cards.
I remember one Valentines Day in particular, and I want to say it was 5th grade. I got a box of "chocolate scented" Valentine's Day cards with these stickers. Only a few of the stickers were scented, and I made sure to give the cutest boys the ones with the scented stickers. It was sooo much fun to decorate our little brown paper bags with the "paper lace" heart and staple it to the bulletin board. At the end of the day, our little bag would be bursting with Valentines. I have a hope chest (well - a trunk I bought) and I still have some of those Valentines.
In high school, I was consistent with my Valentine. I dated the same boy for two years. I received a HUGE panda and a balloon bouquet and flowers. It was very important to get these items delivered to school. Because the ability to parade down the halls with all of this admiration was a signal to everyone how much you are adored. How horrible it would have been to not have my parade of balloons. ;-)
In college, people are bit more broke. Again, I dated another guy for many years. (Serial monogamer with possibly 3 stents in my entire life of singledom - and I assure you, I had fun!) I can't remember anything in particular on Valentine's Day. Probably a special themed party at a local bar.
As an adult - I have been married twice. Ah yes, cupid's arrow decided to give me her vicious little wounds. My first husband was quite the charmer. He showed up one day, while I was working as a News Producer at a Television Station, dressed in a tux (he owned) with 200 white roses (my favorite) and he painted a picture of the Bird Girl from Savannah and placed 26 little yellow daisies on the ground in the painting. (My birthday is 2 days after Valentine's Day - sooo apparently that year I was turning 26.) Granted - 8 years later, we were finished - but the effort, or his effort did not go unnoticed.
My current Valentine - has got to be the LOVE OF MY LIFE. Ooooh... l'amour. How painful and dramatic and ... *sigh*...
This man embodies everything I EVER wanted in a man. He is tall, he is "dark" and obviously in my opinion - he is handsome. He has very high morals. He is very intelligent - speaks 3 languages and is over-educated! Ha! He is well traveled, is a writer... he loves music. He is strong...
I guess just having him in the country with me should be enough for Valentine's Day. Since, he does not celebrate this little tradition - it may have to be enough. So I awake on this day of love - and find no flowers, no cards, no breakfast in bed.
But I have one thing - this is the man I love. Beats all of those dead flowers and artery clogging chocolates any day.
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