“I’m done. Can I watch TV now?” Sara’s eager eyes looked up at her mother. They had just gotten a color TV, and the Beverly Hillbillies would be on in a few minutes. It was one of the shows she was allowed to watch.

heart-2053089_1280“Are you done?”

Sara sighed, “Yes. I still don’t see why I had to give one to everyone in the class.” She finished signing the last Valentine card for her class, even one for Jimmy. She didn’t like Jimmy, but her mother said she had to give everyone in the class a card.

“I don’t see why I have to give any.”

Joey, Sara’s younger brother, was still signing his stack of cards.

Their mother smiled. “We celebrate Valentine’s Day with small tokens given to friends.”

“I don’t want to be friends with everyone,” Joey muttered. Sara nodded her agreement.

“In class, you give one to everyone to be polite.”

Their mother’s voice told Sara not to argue, but Joey said, “It’s a silly holiday. How did it start?”

“I just finished a report on that. Want to hear it?” Allen walked into the kitchen to grab some milk. Allen was older and allowed to do his homework in his bedroom.

Joey sat up and grinned. It had to be more interesting than signing cards he didn’t want to give. “Sure.”

Allen grabbed his paper. “Many countries celebrate Valentine’s Day. Shakespeare created sonnets and plays about the romance of the day, but why do we celebrate? Is Valentine’s Day only about love?

“Stories abound about St. Valentine himself, but most have the following in common. Valentine was a priest during Emperor Claudius II reign. When the emperor outlawed marriage for soldiers because single men fought better, Valentine continued to perform secret marriages for young lovers. Valentine was arrested for breaking the law. In prison, before he was put to death, Valentine sent a final note to the jailor’s daughter who visited him. He signed the note “from your Valentine” a signature we still use today. Valentine’s imprisonment and death are also attributed to helping Christians escape the Roman prisons. He died approximately 270 A.D.

“In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. Many believe the holiday was placed in the middle of February to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival in honor of Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.

“Spoken Valentine greetings were popular in the Middle Ages, but written Valentine’s didn’t appear until the 1400s. The oldest known valentine still in existence is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

“The exchange of small tokens of affection or handwritten notes became popular in the 17th century. By the 20th century printed cards became the norm due to technology and cheaper postage rates. Here in America, Esther A. Howland sold the first mass-produced valentines in the 1840s. She made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures.” Allen finished his report and drank his milk.

“You’re telling me I have to give a card to everyone in class because some old soldiers wanted to get married?” Joey shook his head. At least all he had to do was sign the cards. He didn’t have to make them.

“No, he’s saying Valentine’s Day is a day to thank those who make your life better,” Sara said.

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