Unless you’re color blind, you’re going to see red today.
Let’s just hope the red you see will be a heart-shaped box of chocolates or a lacy nightie or some beautiful red roses. Valentine’s Day is not the day to see red if you’re mad at your mate. Better kiss and make up. For it’s time once again for cupids, love birds, and hearts.
Nobody really knows how the most romantic day of the year got all mixed up with that most crucial body organ, but red hearts and St. Valentine go together like St. Patrick and the green shamrock. St. Valentine’s Day was originally the Roman feast of Lupercalia, but was Christianized in memory of the martyr, St. Valentine. In the Middle Ages, Valentine became associated with the union of lovers under conditions of duress; i.e., Romeo and Juliet.
The Roman Catholic Church dropped St. Valentine’s feast day in 1969, but by then it was a genuine holiday, showing up on calendars all over the world, so we continue to shower our loved ones with red gifts and even the most dyed-in-the-wool cynics become softhearted on February 14.
There’s that word again: heart. The encyclopedia tells us that it is a chambered organ that pumps blood through our bodies on the average of 72 times a minute, or a total of 35 million gallons over the span of a year. In that year, it will beat two and a half billion times. It is the most likely of all our body parts to kill us. More people die of some kind of heart disease than any of the other modern-day death threats.
Further research into the red hearts-Valentine’s Day relationship reveals that in addition to the before-mentioned softhearted, one can be considered warmhearted, which is pretty much the same thing. At the other end of the spectrum, there is a hard-hearted (or even worse) a heartless person. We can do things wholeheartedly, or with a light heart or a heavy heart. We can feel fainthearted, downhearted, or even have our hearts broken. A heart to heart talk is usually good for us, and to have the cockles of our hearts warmed feels wonderful. If we get too mushy and sentimental, someone is bound to call us a bleeding heart.
Richard the Lion Hearted was said to be a fearless warrior; Pope Valentine was a good man but held his high office only a few short months back in 827; and Dustin Hoffman’s Cherokee grandfather said “My heart soars like a hawk,” in the movie, Little Big Man. Lorenz Hart composed “My Funny Valentine;” Oscar Hammerstein II wrote, “The last time I saw Paris, her heart was young and gay;” William Wordsworth penned “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky;” and General Valentine Blacker said, “Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry.”
Not exactly conclusive.
But maybe we don’t really need to delve into the question at all. We can just eat the bonbons out of the heart-shaped box, wear the naughty red underwear and the sparkling jewelry, and display the red roses where we can enjoy them most. Perhaps even a bit of poetry wouldn’t be amiss to celebrate such a special day. This is from “Love Songs of the New Kingdom,” written by an anonymous, obviously lovesick poet sometime around 1200 BC: “…and as I long for your love, my heart stands still inside me. Sweet pomegranate wine in my mouth is bitter as the gall of birds. But your embraces alone give life to my heart.”
After those elegant, romantic words
there’s just one thing left to say:
Happy Valentine’s Day