For this was on seynt Volantynys day, whan euery bryd comyth to chese his make.
It is said that Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love in a poem by Chaucer in 1382 entitled Parlement of Foules. It was written to honor the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. To clarify what Geoffrey had written here it is in modern English.
“For this was sent on Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
According to some, the reference to birds in England mating on Volantyny’s day would indicate that the event was not in mid-February, but more likely May. Regardless, Valentines is a holiday that has since been considered a descendent of the Middle Ages tradition of courtly love. For generations would-be suitors have attempted to win the favor of maidens with gifts of flowers, sweets, and jewelry.
My experience with Valentine’s Day has been varied throughout my life. I recall in elementary school my parents would purchase a box of Valentine’s cards and then while perched in the dinning room I would studiously address each to a member of my class. Then on the appointed day hand them out to everyone and in turn receive a card. The gathered collection would be carried home and kept for a day or so before being discarded. The whole exercise made little since to me.
In the forth grade however, I broke rank and did not follow the traditional routine. As I sat scribbling names on the backs of mass-produced cards one of the illustrations caught my eye. The image depicted a girl puckering to kiss a boy who had presented her with a heart shaped box and all at once the whole business of Valentines came into focus. The cupids, the hearts, and the flowers— it was about boys and girls!
What a revelation for an eight year old. After peering at all the illustrations I confirmed my theory and made a command decision; I opted not to give cards to the other boys in my class. Once I had gave the matter some thought it seemed silly to present cards to boys that were decorated with hearts and read will you be my Valentine. It also changed the importance of giving them to the girls; it implied a desire to be around them. Even at that age I found the concept to my liking.
Throughout the remainder of my school career I used the holiday to communicate my interest in the girls I liked. Using my creative talents I would hand craft elaborate cards with individualized messages for dozens of girls. Even after graduating from high school I made use of this tactic on a few occasions with mostly good results. It was with great pride that I figured out how to use the holiday to my advantage and make a positive impression on as many women as possible. I thought I understood the point of the holiday.
Later in life, once I was married, my fondness for Valentine’s Day waned. No longer did I have someone new to swoon and the effort of hand making a card, buying gifts and so on felt like a nuisance. Don’t judge me too harshly; bare in mind that all my life I had used the holiday to win over girlfriends and my wife was the first woman I ever celebrated more than one Valentine’s Day with. I didn’t know how to act.
However, years pass and life changes. Since my wife and I have an empty nest here at home we’ve been forced to redefine our live style. With no child to care for, fewer obligations, and more time to do what we want, I have discovered that once again she is the most important part of my life. We have a wonderful home, horses to tend to, and all the little things that make us happy. I want to share the dividends of my good fortunes with her and Valentine’s Day is an apt day for it.
So, while I no longer use this day as an opportunity to impress a few girls, Valentine’s Day instead has transformed into a day to show how grateful I am to have one fantastic woman in which to build a life with, toast our accomplishments and plan for the future. My wife, Denise, is my closest friend and my greatest conquest. There is no one in this world more perfect for me and after forty-one years I truly comprehend the holiday.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!
Michael Matthews Bingamon