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Valentine Day Traditions
by Carla Allen
by Carla Allen

Greetings from Nova Scotia!

Carla Allen has been gardening for the past 25 years, co-owned a nursery in southwestern Nova Scotia for 16 years.

Carla has an extensive image library and nurtures a network of horticulture in the region. She was the first president of the Yarmouth Garden Club.

February 14, 2016

Some may ridicule this day, this most romantic of days. A day when all those who love another are urged to present to that person a token of their love. "Commercialism", they snort. "Another holiday, another excuse for store owners to reap our hard earned money." To those who scorn, I gently admonish. Some of us require a little reminder, a tiny jolt to our concience, to prod us into action. Valentine's Day is a time to show one's affection, especially if you've neglected this important gesture the rest of the year. It doesn't have to be a heart-shaped box of chocolates. A simple homemade card accompanied by a kiss will do nicely. Through the centuries hearts, flowers and kisses have been universal emblems of Valentine's Day. Birds are also associated with this `holiday'.

There's an ancient belief that birds (especially lovebirds) began to mate on February 14. Long ago, it was believed a young girl was supposed to marry, eventually, the first eligible male she met this day. If a girl was curious and brave enough, she could conjure up the appearance of her future spouse by going to the nearest graveyard on St. Valentine's Eve at midnight. She was then supposed to sing a prescribed chant and run around the church no less than 12 times. Hopefully it was a small church. Divination games included the practice of throwing a handful of seeds into a bowl or pan of water. The pattern the seeds formed could be interpreted as an initial if one looked very closely. "He who will be my sweetheart." One cannot imagine a group of boys doing this. Boys however could be observed secretly tearing the petals off daisy-like flowers, one by one...." she loves me, she loves me not." The wrong answer would inevitably require a repeat.

A German Valentine's Day custom tells of girls planting onions in clay pots on this most special of days. On each pot a name was placed. The name on the pot of the first onion to sprout would be the name of the betrothed. One does not normally associate onions with Valentine's Day, but rather, the more traditional fruits and foods of love: apples, spiced wine and eggs, pears, figs, pomegranates, cherries, plums, raisins and currants. An interesting fact of Valentine's is the order in which the most Valentine's are follows: teachers, children, mothers, wives and sweethearts.

In merry old England little children went about singing of St. Valentine and collected small gifts. It was also customary to place valentines on friend's doorsteps. In 1797, a British publisher issued the Young Men's Valentine Writer. A handy volume which contained scores of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own. A reduction in postal rates in the next century introduced the widely accepted practice of mailing valentines. An unforeseen drawback to this custom was the fact that cards could be mailed anonymously. As with most other venues, this encouraged racier valentines in the years following. Some of them were considered downright obscene! In Chicago, in the late 19th century, 25,000 cards were deemed "not fit" to be carried through U.S. mail. Nowadays, there are Valentine wishes for every taste.

Remember, you don't have to buy something to let someone know you love them. A friend shared his love for his wife with me recently: "She is the sun and we are the planets." Now that's from a true Valentine!

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