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Happy Valentine's Day

Here we are with the weather returned to normal and Valentine's Day upon us. It's time to round up the flowers, chocolate and cards to deliver to your sweetheart because today's the day.

Curiously enough, I read that 70 percent of the Valentine's Day purchases of such goods are made by women, which would lead me to believe that either the ladies are more giving in nature and attuned to this event or else they are making sure they get something they wanted.

Valentine's Day is named after St. Valentine, an early martyr of the church in the third century A.D. The only problem is that there were three men of that name during that period and no one is sure which one unintentionally was the founder of this event.

One was a priest, another a bishop and the third a missionary in Africa and all were martyred during that period.

Legend has it that one of the Valentines sent a note to a friend from prison (prior to his execution, of course) that was signed "from your Valentine" but there is no evidence to substantiate that story.

The official Feast of St. Valentine was established in the year 496 A.D. by Pope Gelasius I, along with feast days of a host of other martyrs of that period. No mention of cards, flowers or candy at this time.

The next written reference to sending valentines comes from Chaucer in 1382, which speaks of sending a valentine to your loved one.

The earliest surviving valentine was written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was in prison in 1415 and that valentine is still extant. After that it became a regular practice to send love notes or fancy letters to a wife or loved one on Valentine's Day.

The Feb. 14 date is a little slippery because the church adjusted the calendar someplace along the line, during Pope Gregory's time I believe. And while Chaucer writes about sending your love note when the birds are mating, Feb. 14 seems early except for the tropics.

Valentines were probably introduced to this country by the first English settlers as they were quite popular in Merrie Olde England by then.

What we do know for sure is that the first commercially produced valentines in the country were introduced by Esther Howland of Worcester, MA in the year 1847.

Her father had a stationery store and she devised letters with appropriate messages trimmed in lace which were quite a sales success, probably because it saved the guys from having to think up wording for sweet sentiments, etc.

Since Ms. Howland's introduction of the commercial valentine whole industries have sprung up around this annual event. Think Hallmark, for instance. Valentine's Day is observed pretty much worldwide, although not always on Feb. 14 and it does have a variety of names given to it.

Japan and Korea for instance have Valentine's Day on Feb. 14 but it is a one-way street. The girls send/give things to the fellows. On March 14 they have "White Day" during which the fellows return the favor, but it must be something white such as white chocolate or white flowers.

In addition, the Koreans have a Black Day on April 14 when all the fellows that didn't receive a valentine get together and have a black meal of some kind that is a favorite dish so everyone gets something.

So, here we are on Feb. 14 and if you're going to do something for your loved one and haven't done it yet you'd better get a move on.

I'll miss Feb. 14 by 10 days because that's the earliest date I could arrange her surprise. If I told you what it was it wouldn't be a surprise.

Now, on to the important stuff. Have you noticed how light it's staying? I no longer have to use a flashlight to get out of the Pawn Shop at 5:30 p.m. and I could drive home without headlights, although I don't.

I know the sun is up two minutes a day longer every day or some such but it seems as though this just happened overnight. One day it's pitch black at closing and the very next day I can see.

For me that's the first sign that spring is really going to come again this year.

Have a happy Valentine's Day!