The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Valentines still spell “I Love You!”

By Josh Fritze/reporter

Back To the Fifties

For those who can remember, Valentine’s Day in the 1950s offered a mix of dread and anticipation for pre-teens. Tim Paytes, 65, from Cincinnati, Ohio, reminisced about some long ago Valentine’s Days while on a visit to Tarrant County.

“All the kids in school looked forward to the Valentine’s Day party. That was pretty much a big event for us,” he said. “There was all kinds of cards, cupcakes, punch, but the best thing we looked forward to was relief from school work.”

“Most kids in my class were at the age of preadolescent confusion. Around fifth grade, kids sort of accepted that boys and girls had anxiety about each other,” he said. “They were supposed to fear each other and find each other disgusting. That was sort of funny ’cause some of us had other secret thoughts about each other. We liked each other a little bit but weren’t sure why, which rather surprised us to say the least.”

Paytes said teachers required every student to bring cards for all the other students.

“Valentine’s Day was an equal opportunity day,” he said. “We would be very picky about our cards. Each card was picked for a certain kid. For those kids we didn’t like, they got the worst, and the ones we liked got the prettiest. The hardest to pick was for that special someone we wanted to impress. It had to send a secret message that we liked them but not too obvious. We wanted them to know, but we didn’t want them to know. It was crazy. And we didn’t want to be embarrassed or made fun of. Well, most of all, we didn’t want our other friends to know our secret feelings. If they found out, we’d be dead meat.”

Paytes said a cardboard box was made into a large valentine, which was decorated in red and white with hearts and cupids. When the time came, the children would go in front of the class one by one to put their cards in the box. Then the teacher would call children up one at a time to receive their valentines.

“We hoped that we would get that special valentine card from the girl we sent one of ours to,” he said. “Talk about pounding hearts and sweaty palms.”

Paytes said they would glance to see if the special valentine was received well.

“A look, a smile, a nod or any gesture our way, we perceived as she liked it,” he said. “For a moment, we forgot about our friends.”

The excitement of feelings brought about an awareness of the opposite sex and was a sign of change and more things to come, Paytes said.

Today’s Valentine’s Day

Based on descriptions from TCC students, like Crystal Stailworth, 25, not much has changed in the past 50 years.

“My favorite Valentine’s Day was probably about five years ago,” she said. “It was real simple, real romantic, real simple: flowers, home-cooked meal, candlelight.”

Stailworth said Valentine’s Day is about expressing love for somebody, showing it and taking the time out of the day to say, “I love you.” It is a day to make a loved one feel special, but she said Valentine’s Day has never seemed the same since the first one.

“Oh, it’s just another day,” she said. “If you don’t have someone special, it can be depressing.”

Stailworth believes the day is not just a good day for a significant other but also for one’s family.

Tina Ingram, 46, a NE Campus nurse, said her favorite Valentine’s Day occurred in 1989.

“I was dating this guy that I really liked,” she said. “We had a nice dinner, nice evening, flowers and all that good stuff.”

Valentine’s Day to Ingram is a time for sharing and expressing feelings.

“I think it’s a time for family, friends and loved ones to kind of share and remember why that person is important to them,” she said.

Over the years, Valentine’s Day has changed somewhat for Ingram.

“It makes me wish I had someone to go out with,” she said. “As you get older, you seem to date less and less for some reason, but I guess you get more selective.”

As people get older, Valentine’s Day seems to lose that excitement and spark, Ingram said. Over the years, the day becomes an expression of caring and sharing with family members. And to others, it becomes just another day of the week, she said.

“The nice thing about Valentine’s Day is the candy. I just love those big heart candies,” she said. “I remember back in elementary and high school those little hearts, ‘Be Mine’ … ‘True Love.’”

Ingram recalled moments similar to Paytes.

“I remember passing the little Valentine’s Day cards around the room hoping to get a special one from the person you really wanted to get one from, and you never did,” she said. “And it’s like … darn.”

Montece Williams, 20, a teacher education major, said her favorite Valentine’s Day was last year.

“I spent it with my first real boyfriend. Spending time with him made the day special,” she said. “Valentine’s Day to me is a day to show them how much you love them and how much you appreciate them.”

Family members also are important to Williams.

“I always get my mom something just to show her that I care and how much I love her,” she said.

Valentine’s Day has changed for Williams as usually it is her mother giving her something, but last year it was someone else giving her something.

Rachael Tindell, a 20-year-old graphic communications student, said her favorite Valentine’s Day was probably going to a junior high Valentine’s Day dance.

“It was fun,” she said. “Valentine’s Day is a day where couples spend the day together and remind each other how much they love each other.”

For Tindell, the day has taken on a more serious attitude. She thinks couples should make each other feel special and tell each other how they feel.

The History of Valentine’s Day

The history of Valentine’s Day and the saint it was named after is speculation, but February has long been a month for romance and love. The modern Valentine’s Day contains remnants of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. The Catholic Church recognizes three martyred saints named Valentine or Valentinus.

Many stories and legends have circulated throughout the centuries, but one asserts that Valentine was a priest who served in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II around A.D. 270. Claudius determined the best soldiers were single men, so he outlawed marriage for those chosen as potential soldiers. When Valentine realized the impact of such a decree, he challenged Claudius and, in turn, was ordered put to death.

While in prison awaiting his execution, Valentine supposedly fell in love with the jailor’s young daughter and before his execution, wrote her a letter, signed “From your Valentine.” No one knows what really happened to Valentine, but he is credited with sending the first valentine message.

The importance of February derives from several origins. Valentine’s death, or burial, occurred the middle of February, so he is commemorated then. Some believe the Christian church may have celebrated Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February to counter the pagan Lupercalia festival. Lupercalia, which began on Feb. 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Fanunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. An order of Roman priests would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf and sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification.

In ancient Rome, February was the official commencement of spring. Houses were swept clean and salt and wheat were sprinkled throughout the house.

No matter the origins of a February celebration, valentine greetings date back as far as the Middle Ages while written valentines appeared around 1400.

The first recorded association of Valentine’s Day and romantic love messages was “Parlement of Fouleser,” a 1382 poem by Geoffrey Chaucer. Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1851 novella Mr. Harrison’s Confessions included the first mention of sending Valentine’s Day cards.

The first commercially fashioned Valentine’s Day greeting cards were sent in the U.S. Esther A. Howland became known as the mother of the valentine after creating her cards in 1847. From her Worcester, Mass., home, Howland developed a successful home business creating handmade valentines of lace, ribbons and colorful pictures.

Modern Times 

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.

Modern valentine symbols include heart-shaped silhouettes, doves and figures of Cupid flying around with a bow shooting arrows into the hearts of men and women so they would fall in love.

Since the 19th century, the tradition of handwritten notes has largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

In 2001, the U.S. Greeting Card Association estimated approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second-largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

In the second half of the 20th century, Valentine’s Day became more than the practice of exchanging cards with the addition of small to elaborate gifts usually from a man to a woman but more recently including family and friends.

Such gifts typically include roses, flower bouquets, chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped box and snuggly cute stuffed animals. The diamond industry started promoting Valentine’s Day as an occasion for giving jewelry in the 1980s and now promotes special rings, necklaces and bracelets. Valentine’s Day in recent years has also been referenced as Singles Awareness Day.

But most of the 1950s traditions are still carried on in American elementary schools. Children decorate classrooms, exchange cards, eat cupcakes with sprinkles, drink punch and get party favors and relief from schoolwork.

The apprehension of getting that special valentine from that special person has continued with no end in sight.

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