How did we remember all these holidays before we had our “smart” phones to automatically list them for us? Of course we would remember Christmas and the Fourth of July, but there seems to be a special day almost every week. The other day my calendar showed it was Ground Hog Day. Now who made that a holiday? Or which Ground Hog is right?
There are the legal holidays when the government and banks take a break. Of course that took a piece of legislation or a proclamation that made it a holiday. But then there are others; holidays that most of us observe but not by any legal actions. Such a day is coming next Saturday.
The fourteenth day of February is Valentine’s Day. And while it may not be a legal holiday, if you are in a serious relationship with someone you had better not forget it. It is time to say some things you probably should be saying all year long. But at least for one day, make sure you have your bases covered.
I am reminded of the older couple sitting on the porch one spring evening. They had been married for over a half of a century. The wife turned to the husband and said, “You never tell me anymore that you love me.” The husband thought for a moment and said, “I told you once and if I ever change my mind, I will tell you.”
You may ask how we arrived at the fourteenth day of February as Valentine’s Day to express our love. The tradition goes back to a Christian martyr of the third century named Valentine. He was put to death by the Romans according to tradition for performing marriage services for soldiers. The Romans felt that single men made better soldiers. For centuries he was listed among the saints of the Roman Catholic Church. His feast day was the fourteenth of February. In 1969, for lack of solid historical information about him, his name was removed from that list. It is still listed among the martyrs and it is left to various localities whether to observe his day or not. He is still listed as a saint by the Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches. But his church status is not the issue. This key is to make sure you take the opportunity to communicate your feelings for the one you love.
For centuries there was no connection between romance and Valentine than perhaps his involvement in performing the forbidden marriage services. Today he is listed as a patron saint for marriage among other things. But the credit of romance being connected seems to start in the thirteenth century with Chaucer. It was the 17th century in Great Brittan we saw the custom of giving greeting cards and flowers to one you love as an expression of valentines. By the 19th century valentines began to be mass produced for one only to add your signature. More cards are sold for Valentine than any other day except Christmas. I am writing this column a week ahead because you don’t want to wait to the last moment to pick out your card. There is nothing worse than waiting too late and finding the card selection very picked over.
There is an estimated economic impact of $20 billion upon our national economy. This would include 220 million roses, mostly red, being given. And 36 million boxes of chocolates are given as well. Some will splurge more, and it is estimated that up to $4 billion will be spent on jewelry.
But the greatest gift is not what one may buy, but to genuinely express your love to the one you love. Let Valentine be a reminder that we must not limit this to a day, but express it all through the year.
Remember in your childhood in grammar school every student made a little decorative “mail box” s shaped like a heart and placed around the room. They were to receive valentines from the other students. Your parents would buy you a pack of valentines or you would cut out hearts from construction paper. You didn’t put the name of the one receiving the valentine but rather signed your name on each one. You were expected to place one in every “mail box”. But as we grow older the need is for the valentine to become much more personal. It is not your name that matters near as much as the one it is meant for.
Many will carefully pick out a card for someone this Valentines. And it is true that those professional writers can say some very clever and thoughtful things. But those who are wise will add some additional thought. Perhaps a thought that is unique to your relationship. It is the personal thought that adds the priceless value to our expressions of love.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington