While I have no romantic valentine, I did get 10 valentines. I feel so loved! Okay, so 6 of them were from 6 year olds at work (I work at a school), but I still feel pretty great! In honor of this lovely holiday, and so we can celebrate together on this Hallmark Holiday, since I plan on watching season 1 on DVD, I give you:
To end Valentine’s Week with a bang, we’re celebrating our favorite literary couples!
Cornflower: I do love Valentine’s Day (yes, despite being single) if for no other reason than I usually get valentines from my friends! I love getting mail! Plus, I am a romantic sucker at heart. When Indigo suggested we compose a valentine’s post about our favorite literary couples, I thought it was brilliant! So without further ado, here are our favorite couples from some of our favorite books.
The ultimate couple in great literary couples. The standard for all (or at least a whole lot of) romantically entangled couples in literature. There is electricity between these two from the start, even if they mistake that charge for disdain. Even after Darcy professes his love for her, Lizzie stands by her convictions (A smidge misguided though those convictions may be. It’s not her fault someone lied!) When they finally get together it’s magical!
Gabriel and Chiara from the Gabriel Allon books, starting with A Death in Vienna by Daniel Silva
I love these two together! Not only do the books supply my need for action, adventure and espionage, but the couple is great, too! They are complete equals. Both are intelligent, have strong personalities and can do serious damage. Also, for a spy, Gabriel can be surprisingly gentle and loving, which makes me love him even more.
Indigo: As I’m the resident YA reader here (I’m declaring myself this, so Sapphire and Indigo, feel free to disagree) I thought I’d focus my favorites on YA historical fiction. Drum roll please…
I first discovered this book in the 7th grade in my middle school’s library loved it immediately. First Jemima hates John but then she discovers his secret and begins to fall in love with him. Their secret romance set against Revolutionary War America never fails to make me swoon.
After checking the book out multiple times from the library I began my quest to buy it, but unfortunately it was out of print. I then began scouring the used bookstores and the used book section of my public library, I even sweet talked the middle school librarian into giving me their copy. Then, I saw it in Barnes and Noble and nearly peed my pants, although the new cover does not paint a very pretty picture of John Reid. John would not sport a fluffy, queue that looks like on giant dreadlock. No, John Reid is dignified, strong and stands up for his beliefs, even if it causes him harm.
The wonderful thing about the Anne books is that they grow with you. Every time you read them there is something you can relate to, no matter what your age. There is young, teasing love. Then there is friendship. Then comes college and love triangles and romantic realizations. Later there is marriage and newly wedded bliss. Followed by maternal love.
Anne is the girl who made me long for red hair (I still do) and after reading Anne of the Island I was convinced I needed to be dying of a life threatening illness in order for my true love to realize his feelings (fortunately I no longer feel that way, although it does have a certain morbid romance).
Sapphire: I admit that I am kind of worn out after my week of Valentine’s Day posts, so without preamble, here are my favorite literary couples:
Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
This by far is my favorite book, and the growth of Jane from an unloved child to a wise woman has a lot to do with my interest in the story. But, it is Jane and Rochester’s growth together that make this story great. They start off on rocky ground, end up becoming friends, and fall in love. Jane is plain, but Rochester sees her intelligence, kindness, and spirit as her true beauty and loves her because of those attributes. In a way they heal each other, and have a relationship based on mutual respect and admiration. They are separated for a while (crazy wife in the attic and all), but reunite at the end in one of the most romantic scenes ever written, which never fails to make me cry. Together they build a life filled with love that they both had been searching for.
So, I realize that this couple isn’t from a fictional work, but since they were both poets, I am going to call them a “literary couple.” I love poetry, and count these two poets among my favorites, but it is the real-life love story that makes their works even more moving to read. Elizabeth was ill all of her life, and spent her time indoors writing poetry. Robert was an admirer of her poems and began corresponding with her via letters, which eventually became the medium of their courtship. Elizabeth’s father was controlling and disapproved of the match, so the poets were married in secret in 1846 and moved to Italy where Elizabeth’s health vastly improved. They both had a prolific writing career, exchanging or dedicating many poems with or to each other. They were known by friends to be very much in love, and Elizabeth literally died in her husband’s arms.
It is also church day for Christians, and because you can take the girl out of the plaid skirt, but can’t take the Catholic school out of the girl, I’m going to take you on a little trip to Sunday school as my final Valentine from me to you. Valentine’s Day started with and is named for St. Valentine, so here’s a little history of how the holiday came to be.
Mosaic of St. Valentine, Church of the Dormition, Jerusalem
The actual figure of St. Valentine is a murky one that can be attributed to many possible candidates of folklore and legend. In one version, Valentine of Rome was a third century priest who performed clandestine weddings for lovers during a time when marriage was outlawed by Emperor Claudius II, in hopes that unattached soldiers would provide better service, unencumbered by the distraction of women. Upon discovery of his role as officiant in these illegal weddings, Valentine was executed.
An alternate version of the story has Valentine of Rome as a martyred Christian bishop who was arrested for aiding prisoners in their escape from harsh Roman jails. During his own imprisonment, he supposedly fell in love with the jailer’s daughter whom he had miraculously cured of blindness. At the time of his execution, Valentine supposedly sent a farewell letter to the jailer’s daughter expressing his amorous feelings and signed it “From your Valentine,” a phrase that has survived the ages and is still used in modern greeting cards.
A final variation on the Saint is the story of the Bishop of Interamna, Valentine of Terni, who was consecrated as a martyr in 197 AD after being imprisoned, tortured and beheaded on the Via Flaminia in Rome for his devotion to Christianity and piety.
It is agreed in legend that the execution of this man, whoever he may have been, took place on February 14th, although scholars argue that this date is likely not the actual execution anniversary, but rather was a date chosen by early Christian leaders to christianize preexisting “pagan” celebrations in the late winter month of February. In around 498 AD, Pope Gelasius declared the 14th the first official feast day of the sainted Christian, most likely to correspond with the enduringly popular Roman festival of Lupercalia.
The fertility festival of Lupercalia, on the days surrounding and including the 14th of February, was celebrated with the sacrifice of a goat for fertility, and a dog for purification. The goat’s hide was then cut into strips, and wielded by half-naked young Roman studs who ran through the streets, gently whipping women as they went. This display alone makes me think that modern culture is missing out on some amazing ancient practices, but maybe it is just because there are so few reasons left for men to be shirtless in public. The touch of the whips was said to provide women with fertility, and as a spring holiday honoring the season and agricultural abundance, it was both a joyful and anticipated celebration. According to tradition, even Marcus Antonius participated in the festival. If you’ve read Shakespeare you will know that this is the festival day when he offers Caesar the king’s crown thrice and is refused.
As a pagan holiday celebrating spring and the start of the season of mating and new life, the holiday became subsumed by the Christian church in the guise of a saint’s feast day, and as a day to celebrate romance. Especially with the lore surrounding Saint Valentine being so romantically tragic, it is no wonder that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was the most popular saints.
The tradition of sending valentines to loved ones, in the tradition of the Saint himself, started in the form of unique letter writing, and was not standardized as a mass produced greeting card exchange until the 1840’s, first initiated in America by Esther A. Howland. Early valentines were made with paper, lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures and were sometimes accompanied by a small token of affection. Inevitably, in 1913, Hallmark Cards got its hands on the holiday, and marketed valentines for the first time.
Today, approximately one billion valentines are sent each year, and most people have forgotten the ancient and Christian origins of the holiday. But, we have not really forgotten the sentiments behind the day and continue to celebrate love and romance in its many guises, which is really the most important value of the holiday.
With that being said, I leave you with my favorite verse from the Bible, rounding out our Sunday school lesson:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
– 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
May you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day tomorrow and celebrate love’s many joys and powers!
On the sixth day of Valentines Week, my true love gave to me…
The passionate sting of Cupid’s arrow.
We’ve all been the victim of Cupid’s bow whether we like it or not, and whether that first wound of love turns into something more lasting or heals and is forgotten. But, this chubby little cherub that has become the emblem of Valentine’s Day and companion to red hearts and chocolates has his origins in times older than the holiday itself. Cupid, or Eros, in his ancient Greek incarnation, was far from the rosy cheeked infant with fluttering wings that we think of today. So, without further ado, here is an insight into one of my most passionate interests: Greek mythology and culture.
Attributed to Brygos Painter, Greek (active c. 490–470 B.C.), Red-Figure Lekythos Showing Eros in the Role of Archer, Kimbell Art Museum
In ancient Greek cosmology, Hesiod only mentions Eros as an attendant at Aphrodite’s birth, primarily as a symbol of the process of sexual union and procreation. He does not appear in Homer as a god at all. Although his presence is missing in major works early on, Eros was still a popular allegorical figure for love. Eros, as the son of Aphrodite and Ares, gods of love and war, respectively, became the most popular version of the god as time when on. His identity as the progeny of two opposite forces may be a byproduct of the popularity of Aphrodite and Ares as a couple. In fact, there are several amusing stories about the two lovers, including a tryst in which both were caught in flagrante delicto, literally in a netted trap forged by Hephaestus, Aphrodite’s husband.
In later literature of Anakeron, Eros is the “playful tempter to love, the role that later becomes his stock-in-trade.”* This role as instigator is the main characteristic that stuck with Eros through time and into his form as a cherubic archer.
Interestingly, his accoutrements of bows and arrows do not appear until the late fifth century in Euripides’ Medeia as “weapons of love”. Cupid’s iconic set was not the first tool to be used for inciting feelings of love though; in early fifth century art, Eros is sometimes portrayed with an ax, whip, or a pair of sandals instead. I’m sure it would be less romantic to be beaten into loving someone with a pair of shoes, but to each his own.
As for Eros’ appearance, he is usually depicted in ancient Greek works as an adolescent boy with wings or a hovering, small, and naked winged figure, which may be where the cherubic infant image originated. Only later in the 2nd century AD does he appear in literature as an adult male.
For example, Eros is seen as an adult male in the story of Eros and Psyche, a love story in and of itself. Eros began a love affair with Psyche under the condition that she never see who he is. While they conduct a passionate affair in the dark, Psyche’s jealous sisters prod her to steal a look at her lover. Suggesting that he could be a serpent who would devour her, her sisters eventually tear down Psyche’s resolve, and one night she attempts to see Eros’s face. Holding an oil lamp for light, Psyche leans over, dripping oil on Eros in the process and waking him. She sees that her lover is Eros, but he flies away. Trials and tribulations ensue, but eventually the two are reunited, Psyche is made immortal, and a marriage between then is blessed by Zeus.
Through time, cupid, the god of sexual love and beauty, has become a cute symbolic figure of love and romance on greeting cards, but few remember his beginnings as a primordial god of desire and erotic love. Personally, I’d rather be struck with an arrow from this god of old.
So Eros, hit me with your best shot!
* Gantz, Timothy. Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Vol. 1, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. p 3-4.
On the fifth day of Valentines Week, my true love gave to me…
Like many other fads and traditions, the Victorians perfected the art of floral arrangement. At the hight of this morally conservative period, men and women were able to send the prefect message to a loved one through the innocuous gift of flowers. Each flower had a meaning, and ladies were schooled in the language of flowers as part of their social education. Known as floriography, symbolic meanings were attached to particular flowers based on botanical characteristics, scriptural and literary references, Greek and Roman mythology, and geographical and historical associations. Because of these many references, flowers often had multiple and changing meanings. Color and maturity of the bloom could change the meaning of the flower, presenting an downward facing bloom would reverse it’s meaning, and combinations of flowers could produce an entire conversation in a bouquet.
The sentiments behind flowers still linger over a hundred years later, but although we know that red roses symbolize love, the language of flowers has been all but lost to modern patrons of FTD and KaBloom. So, from Victorian historical sources, here is a list of a few flowers with their meanings, dating to the 1880s. Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you can use flowers to say more than just “I love you.”
Rose Acacia: Elegance
Fleur-de-lis: I burn. Flame/fire
Peruvian Heliotrope: Devotion, faithfulness
Holly Herb: Enchantment
Purple Lilac: First emotions of love
Lily of the Valley: Return of happiness
Syrian Mallow (Rose of Sharon): Consumed by love
Night-blooming Cereus: Transient beauty
Pansy: Think of me. Thoughts
White Periwinkle: Pleasant recollections
Ranunculus: You are radiant with charms.
Maiden Blush Rose: If you love me, you will discover it.
White Rose: I am worthy of you.
Dwarf Sunflower: Adoration
Red Tulip: Declaration of love
(Variegated Tulips: Beautiful eyes)
I remember sitting at my kitchen table carefully scrutinizing every valentine that came in my package of 24 cards. Which card is the best? Which will tell him that he’s special? Will he know that I agonized over his card and that he is special? Obviously, I had to make sure I didn’t inadvertently give the best one to the boy who ate glue. Eww. He would get the wrong idea.
Remember when love was simple? When you loved the boy who shared his lunchable and didn’t pull your ponytail (or hit you with a backpack with a rock in it, Cole Hunter, I’m looking at you). When you loved the boy who stood up for you and told the bossy girl that playing the Pink Power Ranger’s pet dog was stupid and she should make up another character for you; the boy who helped you with your fractions because your brain doesn’t work that way.
Check out this video and be inspired by these kidlets over at DailyCandy. They know the true meaning of love (although the girl who wants to marry her brother is in for an awkward conversation in the future).
And with that, have a wonderful Valentine’s Day weekend! Be sure to stop by later and see what Sapphire has in store for us today (although I’m not sure things can get better than chocolate, yummmm).
On the fourth day of Valentines Week, my true love gave to me…
Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, Mars, Godiva, Nestlé, Russell Stover, Guylian, Cadbury, and Lindt, just to name a few. Chocolate is by far the most popular confectionary indulgence. We eat it all throughout the year in solid bars, in cakes, covering caramel centers, and in a hot mug with tiny marshmallows. So, what makes chocolate such an irresistible treat especially on Valentine’s day? Take a stroll with me back in time to discover how chocolate as we know it today came to be and why it is so often associated with love.
Although anthropologists have discovered pottery with cacao residue that might date back to as far as 1400 BC, the Classic Period Maya (from 250-900 AD) are the first official known consumers of cacao. Native to the rainforest of South America, the cacao plants’ seeds were ground into a paste which was combined with water, chile peppers, cornmeal, and other spices to make a liquid treat. Once the Aztecs came to power around 1400, they discovered cacao from the Maya through trade and the seeds were so precious that they served as a form of Aztec currency. The cacao drink became a favorite of royalty and honored members of society and was a staple of sacred religious ceremonies and celebrations of births, marriages, and deaths.
With the conquest of Mexico by Hernando Cortés in 1521, the sacred drink of the Aztecs was discovered by Europeans and exported to Spain. The unsweetened drink was too bitter for many, but when sweetened with honey or cane sugar and spiced with familiar flavors of cinnamon, anise, cloves, allspice, and black pepper, cacao drinks became both palatable and highly popular. Wealthy Europeans in the 16th and 17th century consumed chocolate drinks recreationally and medicinally. The Spanish physician, Antonio Colmenero, enumerates the various (and exaggerated) health benefits of chocolate in his “A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate,” translated by Don Diego de Vades-forte in 1640.
For, besides that it preserves Health, and makes such as drink it often Fat, and Corpulent, faire and Amiable, it vehemently Incites to Venus, and causeth Conception in women, hastens and facilitates their Delivery; It is an excellent help to Digestion, it cures Consumptions, and the Cough of the Lungs, the New Disease, or Plague of the Guts…Cleanseth the Teeth, and sweeteneth the Breath, Provokes Urine, Cures the Stone… Expells Poison, and preserves from all infectious Diseases.
Many of these assertions are far from true; I wouldn’t prescribe chocolate to cure infertility, Tuberculosis, ulcers, kidney stones, or use it to clean my teeth. But, some of these health benefits have some credence; chocolate does contain a chemical called theobromine, almost identical to caffeine, a natural diuretic, stimulates mood elevators with its small amounts of psychoactive substances, and does leave a pleasant chocolaty smell on your breath after eating it. As for being an antidote to poison, I’d rather not experiment to find out.
Chocolate continued to be a drink of the elite, since sugar and cacao were both expensive imports, but by the 19th century, mass production made chocolate available to a larger group of consumers. In 1828, Coenraad Van Houten invented a specialized hydraulic press that removed most of the cocoa butter from processed cacao, leaving a powdered chocolate from which solid chocolate could be manufactured following the creation of the first modern chocolate bar by Joseph Fry in 1847.
Since then, chocolate has been a quintessential dessert and treat for children and adults. Milton Hershey once said “Caramels are only a fad. Chocolate is a permanent thing.” While I do enjoy caramel, Mr. Hershey is right; chocolate has been around forever, and will probably never wane in popularity.
In fact, in 2004, 1,241 locations in America produced chocolate and cocoa products. These establishments employed 43,322 people with California leading with 136 establishments, followed by Pennsylvania with 122.*
For one thing, Valentine’s Day would not be complete without a heart shaped box of chocolates. Chocolate has always been associated with affection and sex, and is considered an aphrodisiac. As Señor Colmenero said, chocolate “Incites to Venus,” and probably became associated with sexual desire when conquistadors noted that Montezuma, the Aztec ruler, imbibed copious amounts of liquid chocolate before visiting his harem. The famous ladies man, Casanova, was also noted for preferring chocolate to champagne. Chocolate, beyond having endorphin producing properties, has historically been an expensive and elite treat, and even today can be quite pricy. Buying this type of gift gives gratification and pleasure to its recipient because it just tastes so good and elevates our mood, but it also says that your man thinks enough of you to spend $75 on a 29 piece assortment of Godiva chocolate in a heart shaped box. Finally, consider the wisdom of Cher in Clueless; “Anything you can do to draw attention to your mouth is good.”
With that being said, I leave you with some recommendations and a song. Among my travels on the Web, I stumbled upon Kylie Minogue’s song Chocolate. It’s sexy, catchy, and uses chocolate as a metaphor for love.
So, take some time to listen while enjoying your favorite chocolate treats with your significant other. I personally love Godiva’s Open Oysters, Dark Ganache Hearts, and Double Chocolate Raspberry Truffles and Reber Mozart Kugel Delights, which combine chocolate with my other love, marzipan. What is your favorite chocolate treat?