Valentine’s Day 2019

Celebrating Valentine’s Day Today

February has rolled around again, and Valentine’s Day is near. Many of us use this time to create or buy something special for those who are important to us. Cards, candy, and flowers especially! The United States hasn’t always celebrated Valentine’s Day and there has been some debate as to the origins of this modern-day holiday.

Many scholars attribute the name Valentine’s Day to a Roman priest named Valentine. Roman Emperor Claudius II felt that married men made bad soldiers and forbade those in his army to marry. Valentine felt this was an unjust ruling, so he married couples in secret. When Emperor Claudius II found out, he had the priest thrown in jail and killed. The legend continues that while in jail, before he was killed, Valentine fell in love with the daughter of one of the jailers, and prior to his death he sent her a love note saying, “from your Valentine.”

There are various other holidays that were celebrated long ago during the month of February that have been associated with Valentine’s Day including a pagan Roman holiday called Lupercalia. At the end of the 5th century, the Catholic Church banned Lupercalia and named February 14th St. Valentine’s Day, however love sentiments were not exchanged as a part of that date for some time. Great Britain was probably the first country to celebrate our modern Valentine’s Day, exchanging cards and letters in the early 1700’s. Today Valentine’s Day celebrated in the US, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.

Vintage Valentine Inspiration
a vintage valentine with lace and a picture.

Our current practice of exchanging cards and gifts in the US can probably be traced to a woman named Esther A. Howland and a man from Great Britain named Richard Cadbury. Howland began selling the first mass produced Valentine’s Day cards in America. She used real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures called ‘scrap’ in her cards and placed messages of love inside. She is known as the ‘Mother of the Valentine.’ Cadbury came up with the idea of selling bite-sized chocolates packaged in heart shaped boxes. Candy and cards remain the biggest Valentine’s Day gifts to this day.

 

 

Box of Chocolates
Cadbury with Love

Our other favorite Valentine candy, the candy hearts, were made in the early 1900’s. Made by a company called Necco in Massachusetts, candy hearts have evolved from fairly large heart shaped candies with longer sayings like, “Married in White, you have chosen right” to the small candies we are familiar with today. With less space, the sayings had to become shorter as well to things like “Miss You” or “Love U.”

Necco Hearts
Classic Necco Conversation Hearts

However you celebrate Valentine’s Day, we can all agree that a day devoted to expressing our love for one another can only be a good thing. Later this week we will be sharing some of our favorite Valentine’s crafts for you to try with your family or to make that special card for your loved one.

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Celebrate Winter Holidays Part 3

Yule or Winter Solstice is celebrated on Dec.21st. Many indigenous cultures celebrate this day around the world. Recognizing it as the longest night of the year, many tribes take this time to reflect and pray for health for their family, the animals and the Earth (as a living being). Nations like the Sylix in Washington State & British Columbia celebrate with songs and dancing – sometimes for several days! Other tribes use this time for storytelling. Staying up to see the suns return is a big part of honoring this tradition. Of course, we can’t mention the Winter Solstice without mentioning Stonehenge in England, and Newgrange in Ireland which have been specifically designed to recognize this time to year. Druids and pagans of all types have celebrated the Winter Solstice with feasting, story telling and a vigil – staying up all night to welcome the return of the sun!

Christmas is celebrated in so many wonderful ways all around the world! In Germany, they celebrate Christmas with the ChristKind. Instead of Santa, the Chriskind – a young girl wearing a long white and gold dress – walks around and brings presents to the children. The decorating of the Christmas tree is thought to have originated in Germany, a tradition started in the late Middle Ages. Songs are sung like ‘O Tennenbaum’ to celebrate. Gingerbread houses are a main part of holiday celebration, with elaborately decorated gingerbread villages. If you are naughty, Krampus – a scary monster might come instead of Christkind and whisk the misbehaving child away! Krampus is growing in popularity again and can be seen in various holiday parades throughout Europe and even the US.  In France, we eagerly await Pere Noel! Yule logs made out of cherry wood are often burned in people’s home. The logs are left burning all night with food and drink in case Mary and the baby Jesus pass by in the night. Children will leave their shoes by their fireplace in hopes that Pere Noel will fill them with gifts. They will end their celebrations by eating sweets, the most popular being the bûche de Noël (chocolate rolled sponge cake). In Australia, it’s Summer when Christmas is celebrated. Instead of the usual Winter scenes, you have snowmen made of sand, and a Santa in shorts surfing. They decorate their houses with ‘bunches of ‘Christmas Bush,’ a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream-colored flowers. They enjoy caroling by candlelight (often changing the words of the carols, replacing words describing Winter scenes with local words of Summer) and each city will host regional events. Instead of reindeer, Santa uses kangaroos!

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