Carl Mays: Enjoy Valentine's Day, whatever you're celebrating

Feb. 13, 2014 @ 11:38 PM

As is usual this time of year, I have been experiencing celebration, challenge and a test of endurance. All of us have been reminded through printed and electronic ads that St. Valentine’s Day is a time to purchase and give flowers, candy, jewelry, cards or some other tokens to the ones we love. Relatively speaking, this one date is pretty easy to remember and prepare for.

But it just so happens that this week began with Jean and me observing our wedding anniversary on Sunday, Feb. 9. And, to add to the week’s activities, Jean’s birthday celebration was on Wednesday, Feb. 12. Not that I’m complaining – just stating the facts. Some people have accused me of bad planning, especially for someone who has been termed “a very organized person.”

However, I didn’t have much say regarding Jean’s birth date. Nor did I have any input about the date of St. Valentine’s Day. And, obviously, I wasn’t doing much future thinking when we chose Feb. 9 to get married. But, hey, it is what it is. And, again, I’m not really complaining, just stating the facts that this is annually a week of celebration, challenge and endurance. However, the active week this year did lead me to think about the origination of all three celebrations.

It generally appears that wedding anniversary observances began during the Middle Ages, specifically during the days of the Holy Roman Empire. It seems upper class husbands presented their wives silver wreaths on 25th anniversaries and gold wreaths on 50th anniversaries. According to several sources, the celebrations (minus the gold and silver) slowly spread to other classes. And then, commercialism, primarily in the 20th century, led to the popularization of every anniversary being represented by certain gifts – such as paper on the first, cotton on the second, leather on the third, fruit or flowers on the fourth, etc.

Birthday celebrations take place worldwide. Many people look forward to them with glee. Others think they are sacrilegious, a belief that springs from mentions of birthday celebrations in the Bible. These mentions include Genesis 40:1-23 in which an Egyptian Pharaoh celebrated his birthday by executing his chief baker, and Matthew 14:3-11 in which Herod the tetrarch reluctantly ordered the beheading of John the Baptist.

As far as St. Valentine’s Day goes, most of us realize its origination is surrounded by facts and myths. However, it does appear to be a fact that at least 11 early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. And, according to at least three different sources, St. Valentine’s Day was established to honor two specific Valentines.

On this St. Valentine’s Day it does the heart – and the relationship – good to express, as A.A. Milne expressed in Winnie the Pooh: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” Then, of course, as Charles Schulz expressed through Peanuts: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Happy day everyone, whatever you are celebrating!

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. Email or visit