Connected successfully  The Okie Legacy: Vol 18, Iss 7 St. Valentines Day (1909)

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St. Valentines Day (1909)

Cupid reigns very day, but on St. Valentine's Day he reigns supreme. Of all the holidays in the year, the 14th of February is the only one set apart on which to make obeisance to the mischievous, adorable little son of Venus. The Morning Examiner, Ogden, Utah, 14 February 1909, Sunday, page 13, is where this story of "St. Valentine's Day" was printed.

Found on

Not that the troublesome elf needs a day for his very own, or the he appreciates the honor, especially, for he well knows that every day is his own, that his arrows fly just as true and as straight on one day as on the other and that all men and all women of all gages have bowed to him and obeyed, always.

On St. Valentine's Day the spirit of Love is recognized more openly than at other times. The little winged god, ordained the God of Love by the Romans, and held in high esteem among their host of deities, sends his arrows broadcast. They lurk in dainty missives of tinseled lace paper valentines, that keep the postmen busy delivering them. They ride in the petals of violets and roses and the sweetest of floral tributes to Milady Fair from her adorer. They go through the land and leave in their wake happiness and heartsease or disappointment and rue. And lovers await them, expect them, welcome them.

We find that the celebration of the day in our own country is well known that it scarcely needs setting forth. The custom of sending one's valentines anonymously seems to be largely confined to the English speaking people. Our celebration is more a personal one to the individual than a collective one in which a number can get together and celebrate simultaneously. The sender of a valentine nowadays does it almost like the proverbial thief in the night.

In Derbyshire, England, when a lovelorn lass, who is not afraid of the dark and supernatural wants to find out what her future lord and master looks like the goes into the churchyard at midnight of St. Valentine's eve and, as the clock strikes 12, commences running around the church and repeating without intermission.

"I sow hempseed, hempseed I sow,
He that loves me best
Come after me now."
Having made the circuit of the church 12 times, repeating all the while the touching little doggerel, she will behold, unless she drops with exhaustion from her rapid transit, moving picture oratorical stunt, the figure of her lover, dim and ghostly, following her footsteps around the church. In the county of Norfolk, England, as soon as it grows dark, packages are laid on doorsteps, the bell is rung and the bearer scoots away. The packages are supposed to contain presents, thus being a sort of combined Christmas and Halloween.

Though it is certain the English idea of humor has not as yet grasped in its entirety the American's joy in flooding his friends, and enemies, with the atrocious comic valentine, there are still possibilities in this old custom. What a chance for the practical joker to leave a package on a door step ring the bell and "beat it" and, from the friendly shadows of a nearby tree or wall, watch the consternation of the sturdy English face that answers the ring and fins in the package, in place of the expected present, a little thing that only storks are supposed to have the privilege of depositing on front door steps! In the west of England there was one ancient custom that was extraordinarily singular. Early in the morning of St. Valentine's Day young men, necessarily of the character that delights in the strenuous life, started out together with a clap-net to catch an owl and two sparrow's in some neighboring barn. If they were successful in catching the birds and brought them to the village inn without injury and before the women folk had risen, they were rewarded with three pots of purl by the innkeeper. They also enjoyed the privilege of demanding similar consideration at the hands of every householder in the neighborhood.

Things that bear the earmarks of age, even though they be nothing more sacred than customs, should be reverenced, it is true. But a wee bit of speculation as to "how it felt to be there" can scarcely be considered iconoclastic or irreverent, though it may be somewhat irrelevant. In the first place, it may be noted, this unique and laborious method of procuring the aforementioned purl was evidently a species of graft that appealed strongly to the minds of those justice swains. (Whatever the Purl was.)

Why did they do it? Just why this purl should be considered worth crawling out of a warm bed at 3 in the morning and stabbing around in the dark with a clap-net for an owl not "on to his job," while the bay from the loft of the barn sifted down into one's nostrils, the chronicler fails to relate. Perhaps the young men of those days considered such stunt a regular helluva time. Or, perhaps, it was simply a case of seizing an opportunity of getting on the outside of a lot of purl in free-lunch fashion. At all events, according to the chronicler, they went after the birds with the same patience the modern "bugologist" expends in chasing butterflies over a new plowed field, and received their reward with an applause and admiration similar to that the present day head of a family receives if he can get out of bed on to the cold floor in the morning and turn on the steam without a murmur. Though scarcely necessary to say so, it is incumbent upon the writer to relate that he has not be en able to discover a survival of this custom in any form in the modern American celebration of St. Valentine's Day.

In many of the European countries the St. Valentine Day its was exchanged between young people as a token of good will. The exact nature of such an osculatory performance is somewhat vague. Thought eh same conscientious chronicler does not mention the relationship, it suggested that this St. Valentine Day kiss is a third cousin, at least, deceased, of the famous "soul" kiss. There is some doubt on this point for in no way can an exegesis of the word "affinity" lead the investigator back to that time. On the other hand, the fact that this custom is now in vogue universally, not only on St. Valentine's Day, but on other days, and far into the night as well, is significant. The only difference is that the co called St. Valentine Day kiss of the present is a token of good will, and other things. Even to the present day of 1909, it is customary in Europe for the young men to meet together on the village green in trials of strength.

In Ireland, the great feature of St. Valentine's Day was the breakdown dance. All the boys and all the girls engage in it, the couple dancing the longest winning the coveted applause. The victorious couple was looked upon as well-mated and not infrequently a wedding flooded during Eastertide.

The dance itself was indeed a spectacle. With much ceremony the door of the barn was lifted from its hinges and the dance commenced as soon as the fiddler or the player of the bagpipes orders the couples out. The floor of the barn was of mud; hence the door was laid on the ground to form a suitable surface for the dancers. Goldsmith described the dancers in his "Deserted Village."

"The dancing pair that simply sought renown,
By holding out to tire each other down."

The absolute whole heartedness of the dance and the fierceness of these tests of endurance must be seen to be appreciated. Though the occasion is one of the utmost jollity and good will, the contestants were in dead earnest in their endeavors to win.
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