“At the touch of love every one becomes a poet.” ~Plato
Valentine’s Day is on Saturday. What comes to mind for you? It makes me think of flowers and chocolate and Valentines and of all the people I love.
When I was a girl, my heart would beat a little faster when the calendar turned from January to February. I knew my class would soon be taking our empty shoeboxes to school to decorate for Valentine’s Day. And what joy it was to transform a plain shoebox into a postal work of art with tissue paper and construction paper and lacy paper hearts with glitter!
After that, there was still the excitement of passing out Valentines and seeing my beautifully decorated Valentine mailbox fill up. Who doesn’t love receiving Valentines? My teacher friends tell me this tradition is still alive and well in the schools, with decorated cereal boxes and bags and envelopes joining the shoe boxes of old.
When my children were growing up, we would make construction paper Valentines for one another every year. Our kitchen table would be littered with glitter and glue and heart stickers and ribbons. We would use those small conversation hearts and look for just the right one to glue to our Valentines for one another.
I bought a box of conversation hearts the other day just to read the lingo on them again. Okay, well yes, I wanted to eat them too. They said things like QT Pie, Dream Boat, Miss You, Say Yes, Marry Me, Soul Mate, Sweet Talk, Wicked Cool, Crazy 4U, XOXO, and Text Me. Obviously, conversation hearts have stayed current with the modern age!
The custom and tradition of Valentine greetings has been popular since the Middle Ages, which began in the 5th century. Back then, Valentines were called “amorous addresses” and were often spoken out loud or sung to the object of one’s affections. In the 1400’s, written Valentines began to appear, and by the 1600’s it was a widespread tradition in England and other Western countries to exchange notes and gifts on February 14th.
In our country, Valentines became popular in the mid 1700’s. At the time, Valentines were still handmade and there were booklets imported from England called Valentine “Writers” to aid in the creative process. The “Writer” booklets would have a variety of verses and messages to choose from which could then be copied onto fancy paper to make a Valentine. Some of the “Be My Valentine” verses sent by men of the time included an “acceptance or answer” which the ladies could return to them. Valentines in the 1800s sometimes included old-time tintype pictures of the sender, or even a lock of hair.
Before the Victorian Era, postage was very expensive so Valentines were hand delivered and left on doorsteps. Around 1890, postage was more affordable and the practice of sending Valentines through the mail became more popular and widespread. Between 1890 and 1917, penny postcard Valentines (often with a picture of the sender on them) were the rage because they were mailed with a one-penny postage stamp.
I can’t write about Valentines and Valentine’s Day without mentioning love letters. Yesterday on Dailymail.com, they printed a poll revealing the ten greatest love letters of all time. Their number one greatest love letter was a letter written by Johnny Cash to his wife, June Carter on her 65th birthday. Here’s what it said:
Happy Birthday Princess,
We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each other’s minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little big. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.
But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the number one Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.
Happy Birthday Princess.
Wow. Who wouldn’t want to receive a letter like that? Or write one.
So, how about it? Everyone likes to receive a love letter and everyone can write one. It doesn’t cost anything except for your time. In this day and age of technology and speed, try picking up a pen and a piece of paper and putting it all out there for your Valentine…sentimental, funny, nostalgic, bold, even sloppy…whatever your style for declaring your love. And, it’s only Wednesday so you even have time to put it in the snail mail!
Author’s note: If you need some ideas for how to write a love letter, these come from the book, “Family Traditions” by Elizabeth Berg.
*Write 14 reasons why you love someone…one for each day of February leading up to Valentine’s Day.
*Write about the first time you met and what you liked about the person right away. Write your favorite things about them today.
*Write about your greatest fantasy place in the world to take your beloved and where you would go and what you would do there.
*Write why you love them, honestly…for their own qualities as well as for the way they make you feel.
*Write what your hopes for the future are with the person you love.