Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love is in the Air

Love is in the air. 

Wait! Is that the scent of love or roses? Roses of all colors are everywhere, like a garden of arrangements, complete with I love you cards and red ribbons, sprouted overnight. Girls, in the high school where I teach, carry them from class to class like they picked them in the garden of love just this morning!

Did you send Valentine cards to the ones you love? Or receive Valentine’s from your loved ones? If you did, your cards are part of the estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards sent each year, making Valentine’s Day second only to Christmas in card greetings. You also join people in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia who also celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I look at the fresh faces of these high school students and I’m reminded of the phrase “puppy love”. I’m surprised at how few of my students have heard the term and even those who have, had no idea what it means. They also struggle with the meaning of “star crossed lovers,” but do better with love clichés like “love is a many splendored thing,” all’s fair in love and war,” and “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” 

Messages of love abound on cards of all shapes and sizes. All you have to do is purchase your message – from super to slightly mushy – from humorous to just plain silly – to neutral that are just like a car in neutral, the reader doesn’t know if you plan to move forward or just sit there! 

What of the love letters of bygone years? And what about the homemade Valentines of old? It’s okay for preschool and perhaps, kindergarten children to make valentines with red construction paper and paste, but it’s not “cool” for anyone else to give handmade cards with hand written messages, unless they come from a boutique and cost as much as a tank of gas. 

One of my fondest memories is the Valentine Box. My first grade teacher brought in a big empty box that had a removable top with a slot cut in the middle of the top. She helped us decorate it with hearts we cut out of red construction paper, and then put it on a table in the center of the room. I remember how exciting it was to drop my valentine’s in the box, and how thrilling it was on Valentine’s Day when she opened the box and called out the names on the cards.

It was that first grade teacher who taught me about Valentine's Day. As I grew older, I learned about the legend surrounding St. Valentine, one of three (all named Valentine or Valentinus) martyred patron saints of the Catholic Church. He died on February 14th and has been associated since the Middle Ages with love.

The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. His wife was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, and Charles wrote to her declaring his love. It was the 1700's before people starting exchanging handmade valentines, and the 1840s before the first mass-produced valentines were sold by Esther A. Howland in America.

I doubt the young men and women I saw exchanging cards, flowers, and candy today, care who or what started Valentine's Day. The important thing is that it is the day when love is in the air and kisses can be stolen in the stairwell between classes. What matters is they are young and in love (puppy or not) and have someone to call my boyfriend or girlfriend.

Happy Valentine's to all and may you always have someone to love!

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