February is a unique month. We start out on February 2 by watching a rodent meteorologist to see how many more weeks of winter we will have and then head right on into the holiday of love.
“Punxsutawney Phil” is the famed groundhog who lives at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Legend has it that he comes out of hibernation each year on February 2 to see if he can see his shadow. If he does there will be six more weeks of winter and if he doesn’t, an early spring is predicted. Come on, six weeks from February 2 would fall in mid-March. Here in the northern states that still means Old Man Winter is still hanging around, shadow or no shadow for old Phil.
Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day when clergy would distribute candles, which represented how long and cold winter should be. Germans expanded on the idea by selecting the hedgehog as the animal to predict weather. German settlers in Pennsylvania changed it to groundhog because they were more plentiful.
Punxsutawney Phil may usher in the shortest month of the year, but St. Valentine’s Day is the month’s crowning glory. It’s the one day of the year set aside for love and love alone. February 14 is the day to show your true love just how much they mean to you. Traditionally, this is done by sending flowers and greeting cards and giving chocolate candy, which translates into a booming commercial success for these industries.
According to the Greeting Card Association, 25 percent of all cards sent each year are Valentines, which adds up to nearly 150 million cards exchanged each Valentine’s Day. That is a lot of “I Love You’s”! More than 40,000 Americans are employed at chocolate companies.
Unfortunately, some of these companies choose to capitalize on this sentiment of love. Nothing says love like red roses and the industry definitely knows this rose pricing is a thorny issue of Valentine’s Day. The average price during the year for a dozen florist-arranged, long stemmed red roses is $59. The same dozen roses for Valentine’s Day will cost $73 or more.
A few years after we were married Jim decided he didn’t want to play this price-gauging game and asked if it would be all right not to get me roses that year. It was perfectly fine with me, but he obviously felt so guilty that instead he bought me three stuffed animals, seven valentine cards and a box of chocolate which in the end cost way more than if he would have gotten the roses!
Did you know that the quantity of roses you choose to send belies hidden messages? One rose means “You’re the only one.” Three roses say “I love you.” Sending 108 roses is equivalent to a marriage proposal while 365 means “I think of you everyday.” Sending 999 roses translates into “We will be together forever” which is probably true because after paying $1,516 for them, no one could afford a divorce.
There are hidden meanings in the colors too. Red roses signify passionate love while purple says “I will always love you.” Something tells me that a combination of the two is good, that way you cover all the bases.
Our modern Valentine’s Day originated from Christian and Roman traditions. One theory is the ancient Roman fertility celebration of Lupercalia was later renamed and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs. In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius turned it into a Christian feast day and set it to be celebrated on February 14. It honored St. Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the third century.
Protestants and Catholics both agree that St. Valentine was a bishop who held secret marriage ceremonies for soldiers in opposition to Claudius II who prohibited marriage for young men. Claudius thought married men were more emotionally attached to families and marriage made men weak, thus they would not make good soldiers.
St. Valentine saw the trauma of the young men and became known as the friend of lovers. He had some saintly abilities, one of which was the power to heal. While in prison he was approached by his jailer Asterious who had a blind daughter. He helped her to see and they became friends. Needless to say, she was sad to learn of his eminent death. Just before his execution he asked for pen and paper and signed a farewell message to her. It read “From your Valentine” and Valentine’s Day was born, being a day for all lovers with St. Valentine as its patron saint.
UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of “Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine” is credited as the one who linked Valentine’s Day with romance. As they say, the rest is history.
Besides all the fluff, the flowers, the candy and the cards, Valentines’s Day should be a special day. Like with everything else in our busy world, do we really take enough time to tell those who mean the most to us how much we do love them? Hopefully, we’ll take the sentiment of this Valentine’s Day and carry it through all year because love shouldn’t be for just one day.
Photo: iStockphoto.com/Catherine Lane