Reflections: Valentine's - A Loving Day!

Valentine's - A Loving Day!
By William L. Bulla

Valentine's Day has a special place in my heart!
One of my early childhood memories with Valentine's Day was in my grade school years. Ann Carolyn, a charming young lady at about eight years of age, was a neighbor and a classmate of mine. I thought she was pretty "cool", even before I knew what that word meant. I was very shy, but I watched for her to walk to school and managed to be at her front door at that moment each day.
As children in grade school, the ritual of bringing valentines to school for all your schoolmates was the thing to do. We exchanged valentines, but instead of the normal paper valentines I exchanged with other students, I managed to have a special "store boughten" card for Ann Carolyn. Then as I walked her home after school, I received a quick kiss on the cheek. WOW! I didn't come down to earth for several hours.
Then the day arrived when my father's job required us to move to another town and my romance ended.
Yes, Valentine's Day has always been a special day in my life!
It is the traditional day on which lovers of all ages, express their love for each other by sending cards, presenting flowers, or offering confectionary. The holiday is named after two, among the numerous, Early Christian martyrs named Valentine. We are not sure which Valentine was being honored around 498 AD, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as St. Valentine's Day.
Over the centuries, the holiday evolved, and by the 18th century, exchanging gifts and hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become a common thing in England.
A Mount Holyoke College student, Ester Howland, crafted the first U.S. valentines. Her father, a stationer in Worcester, MA, imported valentines every year from England. Around 1810, Ester decided to create her own valentine messages. She began importing lace, fine paper and other supplies to create her valentines. She employed several people to create and market her product.
Today, valentines are manufactured on an enormous scale that ranges from sentimental to sophisticated to humorous ones. There is a valentine for everyone - sweetheart, spouse, children, parents, and teachers.
Valentine's Day is the day to express affection for loved ones and especially for your significant other.
There are many symbols used on our Valentine's Day cards today that have their history in centuries past. The custom of drawing the heart is believed to have come from early attempts of people to try drawing an organ they had never seen. As the heart was once considered the source of human emotions, it became known as the symbol of love.
The little winged child we know as Cupid came from Greek and Roman mythology where he was believed to shoot arrows into hearts of potential lovers.
Centuries ago, a woman would drop a lace handkerchief in front of the man she liked. When the man picked it up, it could be the beginning of a romance. Thus was born the custom of using lace on valentines. Lace, or lace designs, are still used on cards today. We see cards with doves and colorful lovebirds because they are old symbols of romance.
The rose, considered the flower for lovers, and chocolate candies were among the earliest Valentine's Day gifts. Over the years, chocolate candies have been packaged in red or pink heart-shaped boxes for this special day.
And many of us may sign our cards with XOXO above our name. We know it today as "hugs and kisses". In the Middle Ages, when most people could neither read nor write, they would sign documents with an "X" instead of their name, then place a kiss on the "X" to show themselves trustworthy.
Since then, a kiss has come to be represented by an "X".
It has been said, "A kiss on Valentine's Day brings good luck all year."
Now I understand why I was so happy to get that kiss on the cheek from that little girl when I was in grade school.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.