Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Romance on Valentine's Day

NOTE: This is a "genealogy-free" post!

What a wonderful tradition that Valentine's Day is. What a challenge for a fellow to get just the right gift for the love of his life. For me, it is even more challenging, since I proposed to Angel Linda on Valentine's Day, and we have to celebrate that event. My reason wasn't solely romantic - I figured I would be able to remember it! And would need only one gift to cover both events!

Over the years, the gifts have rarely changed - candy, flowers, and jewelry from me to her, and books, candy and computer ink for me. But we look forward to the evening out for dinner, and the special times afterwards (this means I won't have a blog post tonight, I think).

Was it always so? I went looking for old newspaper articles about Valentine's Day and, among the sparse offerings on "America's Historical Newspapers, 1690-1876" (found on Newsbank through my NEHGS subscription) concerning Valentine's Day was the following (selected paragraphs):

In the Salem Gazette (Salem MA), published 10 October 1828, Volume VI, Issue 81, Page 1.

Headline: THE TWO VALENTINES Miss Mitford

Text (selected):

Valentine's Day is one of great stir and emotion in our little village. In large towns - especially in London - the wicked habit of quizzing has entirely destroyed the romance and illusion of that tender anniversary. But we in the country are, for the most part, uninfected by the over-wiseness, or "over-niceness" ... and are content to keep the gracious festival of love-making and billets doux, as simply and confidingly as our ancestors of old.

I do not mean to say, that every one of our youths and maidens pair on that day, like the "goldfinch, bullfinch, greenfinch and all the finches of the grove" - Heaven forbid! Nor that the spirit of fun hath so utterly evaporated from us that we have no display of innocent trick or harmless raillery on that licensed morn: all that I contend for is, that in our parts, some truth may be found lurking amidst the fictions of those annual rhymes - that many a village beau hath so broken the ice of his courtship - and that many a village belle hath felt her heart throb, as she glanced at the emblematic scroll, and tried to guess the sender, in spite of the assumed carelessness, the saucy head-tossings, and the pretty pouting with which she pretended to veil her real interest.

In short, there is something like sincerity amongst us, even in a Valentine: as witness the number of wooings begun on the Fourteenth of February, and finished in that usual end f courtships and comedies - a wedding - before Witsuntide. Our little lame clerk, who keeps a sort of catalogue raisones of marriages, as a companion to the parish register, computes those that issue from the bursting Valentine bag of our postman, at not less than three and a half per annum - that is to say, seven between two years.

But - besides the matches which spring, directly or indirectly, from the billets commonly called Valentines - there is another superstition concerned with the day, which has no small influence on the destinies of our country maidens. They hold, that the first man whom they espy in the morning - provided that each man be neither of kin to them, nor married, nor an inmate of the same house - is to pass for their Valentine during the day; and, perhaps, (for this is the secret clause which makes the observation important) to prove their beloved for life. It is strange how much faith they put in this kind of sortes vigiliani - this turning of the living leaf of destiny; and how much pains they will take to cheat the fates and see the man they like best first in spite of the stars!

One damsel, for instance, will go a quarter of a mile about, in the course of her ordinary avocations, in order to avoid a youth she did not fancy; another shall sit within doors, with her eyes shut, half the morning, until she hears the expected voice of the favorite swain; whilst, on their part, our country lads who care to place themselves each in the way of his chosen she; and a pretty lass would think herself overlooked if she had not three or four standing round her door, or sauntering beneath her window, before sunrise.

The story goes on (and on and on) about a girl with two beaus and she has to choose between them, based on their Valentine billet.

Did you ever hear of these traditions in school? What a surprise to me! It explains some of the strange things that happened to innocent Randy and shaped his views about love and marriage for a lifetime.

FYI, my favorite song is "I Love How You Love Me" by the Paris Sisters, from 1962. I will play it tonight for, and sing along with it to, my Angel Linda.


Jasia said...

What a dear, sweet, romantic you are Randy. Thank you so much for sharing this article. I found it charming and enlightening.

I hope you're too busy to read this comment tonight. Tomorrow will be soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Simply and interesting article about your Valentine's day romance.Your proposal and exchanging gifts like flowers,jewelry,going for dinners etc.
I saw one of the website for valentines jewelry which is having a great collections.