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The significance of Valentine’s Day

Approaching Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, I looked for ideas about the importance of this special day and how Americans observe it. I learned right away that this is indeed a day that is important to almost all of us.

From the funny “roses are red” poems we may have learned in elementary school to the more sophisticated and beautiful cards available by the hundreds on display at almost every store we visit, there’s not much room to doubt that February is celebrated as the month of romance!

History tells us that what began as a pagan festival was later “Christianized,” then outlawed and deemed un-Christian at the end of the 5th century. During the Middle Ages, Valentine greetings were popular, but written Valentines didn’t appear until later.

By 1900, printed cards began to replace written letters, largely due to improvements in printing technology. A woman named Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced Valentines in America in the middle of the 19th century. Howland became known as the “Mother of the Valentine.”

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion cards are now sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending date of the year. In first place is Christmas when an estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent.

An old Gertrude Stein poem, “A Very Valentine,” was published a century ago and remains in print in various publications. Here’s how the American-born poet expressed her feelings for her valentine:

“Very fine is my valentine.

Very fine and very mine.

Very fine is my valentine very mine and very fine.

Very fine is my valentine and mine, very fine very mine and mine is my valentine.”

How’s that, compared to one we may have heard during our early school days:

“Roses are red, Here’s something new, Violets are violet, They’re not blue.”

Or, compare it to this one designed not for mailing but for today’s most modern technology:

“I’ve sent texts and I’ve called, but you just don’t comprehend. I want you to be my Valentine, and not just a Facebook friend.”

Enjoy giving and receiving cards, letters, and texts as you observe this important February date in 2019.