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Make this day your own

To love is to receive a glimpse of heaven.

--Karen Sunde, playright

I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day, in spite of the unbridled commercialization surrounding it. I refuse to allow cynicism to invade my outlook. I say, make this day your own! Celebrate within your means. If you can afford to send an $80 Vermont Teddy Bear to a loved one who would like one, then by all means call the company’s

Teddy Bear Counseling Department and make the arrangements. Better yet, set your budget and head to a local florist. Ignore the completely practical people in your life who protest that this is just another day. It’s been a noteworthy day on our calendars for centuries.

The history of Valentine’s Day is somewhat mysterious, yet historians believe it contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. One legend tells the story of a Catholic priest named

Valentine who lived in Rome and served God during the third century.

When the reining emperor, Claudius II, decided that single men made superior soldiers to those supporting wives and children, he bolstered outlawed all marriages involving young men. Believing this practice to be a great personal injustice to those he served,

Valentine defied the law of the land and performed marriages in

secret until his arrest and confinement.

Facing death, loneliness and dreadful prison conditions, Valentine was said to have sent the first “valentine” from his prison cell.

According to these accounts, Valentine fell in love with his jailor’s daughter who regularly visited him. Before his death he signed his final letter, “From your Valentine,” which is an expression we still recognize, centuries later. In time Valentine became a romantic hero known throughout Europe.

These historians believe Valentine’s Day is celebrated mid-February to commemorate Valentine’s death, which probably occurred around 270 A.D. Others claim that the Christian church celebrated Valentine’s Feast Day in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan festival known as Lupercalia. In ancient Rome, February also marked the official beginning of spring and people looked upon the month as a time to clean and purify their households after weeks spent inside during the long winter. Homes were ritually cleansed by a careful sweeping, then freshened with salt and a wheat varietal called spelt that was sprinkled onto interior floors.

Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day in 498 A.D. and setting aside this day to celebrate love has remained. The oldest known valentine still exists and was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife. Captured during the Battle of Agincourt and imprisoned in the Tower of London, Charles penned his greeting in 1415. Today it is part of a manuscript collection housed in the British Library in London.

Whatever the origin, Valentine’s Day became a widely popular European celebration in the 1600s and it was common for friends and lovers to exchange small gifts and handwritten notes. By the end of the century printers began producing ready-made cards and increased enthusiasm for the day spread. It’s believed the exchanging of cards spread to

America early in the 18th century and mass-produced valentines became popular in the 1840s. This year one billion cards will be exchanged in the U.S. alone and 85 percent of those will be purchased by women.

There’s your sign.

Christ speaks about the elements of true love in the book of Mark

when He reminds us that God’s laws, first outlined in the Old

Testament, can be incorporated into our everyday lives without burden. In fact, they can be reduced to two calls: Love God with all your heart and all your mind and love others in the ways you desire to be loved.

The world of opportunity breaks open with a million and two creative ways to demonstrate our love for those with whom we come in contact.

How about taking the time to clear our minds of the clutter for a few minutes and really listen to someone who wants to talk? To praise and compliment and encourage? To value and respect? To notice small needs and respond in personal ways?

How about a hug? An email. A call. A card. A prayer. A decorated cookie. A ride. A donation.

No matter your personal preferences, ask God for some creative inspiration and take the opportunity to express love for the people in your life whose love gives you a glimpse into heaven.

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