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Article Archive >> Featured Topics

The Sweetest Holiday of the Year

The Sweetest Holiday of the Year
by Jennifer LB Leese

Valentine's Day falls on February 14, and is the traditional day on which lovers in certain cultures let each other know about their love, commonly by sending Valentine's cards, which are often anonymous. The history of Valentine's day can be traced back to an obscure Catholic Church feast day, said to be in honor of Saint Valentine. The day's associations with romantic love arrived after the high Middle Ages, during which the concept of romantic love was formulated.
The day is now most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of "valentines." Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline, and the figure of the winged Cupid.
Starting in the 19th century, the practice of hand writing notes has largely given way to the exchange of mass-produced greeting cards. The Greeting Card Association estimates that, world-wide, approximately one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year besides Christmas. The Association also estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
Every February we celebrate Valentines Day in honor of Saint Valentine. Who is St. Valentine?
Valentine's Day Legends
Legend has it that Valentine was a priest who served during third century Rome. There was an emperor at that time by the name of Claudius II. Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those that were married. With this thought in mind he outlawed marriage for young men in hopes of building a stronger military base. The good Saint Valentine, who was a priest in Rome, in the year 269 A.D., together with his friend Saint Marius, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When Valentine's actions were discovered, he was sentenced to death by beating.
But while in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl (who may have been his jailor's daughter) who visited him during his confinement. Before his death on the 14th day of February, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Perhaps we'll never know the true identity and story behind the man named St. Valentine, but this much is for sure...February has been the month to celebrate love for a long time.
Another valentine character you may be wondering about is Cupid (Latin cupido, "desire"). In Roman mythology Cupid is the son of Venus, goddess of love. His counterpart in Greek mythology is Eros, God of Love. Cupid is often said to be a mischievous boy who goes around wounding both gods and humans with his arrows, causing them to fall in love.
Some say that the legend says that Valentine's Day started in ancient Rome, on February 14, a holiday to honor Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of Women and Marriage. Then, the following day, February 15, began the Feast of Lupercalia.
In those days, the lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate. However, on the eve of the festival of Lupercalia, the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl's name from the jar and would then be partners for the duration of the festival with the girl whom he chose. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.
Celebrations Around the World
In Japan and Korea, Valentine's Day has emerged, thanks to a concentrated marketing effort, as a day on which women give chocolates to men they like. Rather than being voluntary however, this has become for many women--especially those who work in offices--an obligation, and they give chocolates to all their male co-workers, sometimes at significant personal expense.
By a further marketing effort, a reciprocal day, called White Day has emerged. On this day (March 14), men are supposed to return the favor by giving something to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine's Day. Many men, however, give only to their girlfriends. Originally the return gift was supposed to be white chocolate or marshmallows (hence the name "White Day"). However, more recently men have taken the name to a different meaning, giving lingerie.
In Korea, there is also an additional Black Day, held on April 14, when males who did not receive anything for Valentine's Day gather together to eat Jajangmyun (Chinese-style noodles in black sauce).
In Chinese Culture, there is a similar counterpart of the Valentine's Day. It is called "The Night of Sevens", on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. (A slightly different version of this day is celebrated in Japan as Tanabata, on July 7th (the same day, but transcribed to the solar calendar).)
In Brazil, there is no such day as Valentine's Day. Instead, on June 12, "Dia dos Namorados" (lit. "Day of the enamored", or "Boyfriend's/Girlfriend's Day") is celebrated. On this day, boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, exchange gifts (lingerie, chocolates, and more), cards and usually a flower bouquet. This day is chosen probably because it is one day before the Saint Anthony's day, there known as the marriage saint, when many single women perform popular rituals in order to find a good husband (or, more modernly at least a boyfriend).
Great Romances
Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh
He was America's first hero of the century. She was the shy, self-conscious daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Together they were one of America's first celebrity couples in a media-crazy century. With his encouragement, she wrote memoirs of their life that made her one of the country's most popular and famous diarists. Early in the relationship, as Anne wrote ecstatically in 1928, when the couple were "together, alone-- all gold, that extra golden bloom over everything!" But, as Lindbergh's biographer A. Scott Berg writes, "their 'storybook romance,' as the press always presented it, was, in fact, a complex case history of control and repression, filled with joy and passion and grief and rage."
Lindbergh wanted his wife to be an independent, modern woman - and yet he wanted to remain the focus and center of her life. She stuck with him through heartbreak and controversy, including the murder of their son and Charles' infatuation with Hitler's Germany. But she was capable of quiet rebellion.
Though Anne believed she and Charles were "badly mated," she deliberately chose to play the role of the hero's wife. Reeve, her daughter, wrote in her own memoir, "It was sometimes an uneasy and uncomfortable union, but my belief, nonetheless, is that neither one of my parents felt fully alive, or truly like himself or herself, unless the other one was there."
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn
Tracy and Hepburn. If there was billing, that was it. That's how they both wanted it. America's quintessential outspoken Yankee, Kate Hepburn, met the fantastic actor Spencer Tracy when she was 33 and he was 42. They felt an instant attraction and, in an arrangement very much like the films they made together, what he wanted to do, what he wanted to eat, what he desired was what she always did, in the end.
Hepburn once said men and women should live next door to each other, and for years, she and the very married Tracy kept company but never lived together, never went out together. Only when he fell ill, after years of binge drinking, did she retire from films to care for him at the estate of George Cukor, where they lived. After he died, she called his wife and said, "You know...you and I can be friends." "Well, yes," Louise Tracy said, "but you see, I thought you were only a rumor."
It was a "rumor" Hollywood stood in awe of. The public never seemed to get the aura of the word adultery, for Hepburn and Tracy seemed so very like the attractive people they played in nine films together.
In various passages from her autobiography, Hepburn, the daughter of a suffragist and birth-control crusader, sounds disconcertingly unliberated: "We passed 27 years together in what was to me absolute bliss. It is called love. I could never have left him. I wanted to protect him. I struggled to change all the qualities I felt he didn't like. I was his." And then there is this startling admission: "I have no idea how Spencer felt about me. He wouldn't talk about it."
Sweet and Simple Gifts for Him
1. Collectible memorabilia- fanwear from his favorite sports team, movie scripts, or anything toward his collection/hobby.
2. Toys for the little boy within- electric scooter, remote-controlled cars and planes, XBox, PlayStation
3. Gadget galore- digital camera/camcorder, MP3/DVD player.
4. Tickets to a sporting event- NBA, NFL, MLB
5. Silk boxers
6. Swiss army knife or pocket survival tool
7. Gifts for the office- briefcase, Cross or Montblanc pens, nice desk accessories
8. Nice leather wallet or money clip
9. Indoor/outdoor weather station
10. Passes to a local golf course (or spring for passes to a resort course)
Sweet and Simple Gifts for Her
1. Something for all the Senses- a box full of treats that inspires her sense of touch (silk lingerie, lotion, oils), smell (perfume, incense, candles), Sound (music CDs, concert tickets), sight (framed photos, paintings), and taste (chocolates, cheeses, wine)
2. Pampering services- massage, facial, manicure, pedicure
3. Digital camera- one that can easily fit in her bag
4. Earrings or bracelet
5. Trip to a bed and breakfast or a romantic ski lodge getaway
6. Custom photo album filled with family snaps or pictures chronicling your love
7. Leather handbag or wristlet
8. Antique tea set with a selection of various teas
9. Gourmet cooking classes or a nice cookbook and candlesticks
10. Picnic basket filled with treats, a blanket and a nice bottle of wine

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