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Happy Hallmark Moment!

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Yes, Valentine’s Day really is one of those Hallmark moments, a time when every chocolate factory pumps out confections and sticks them in heart-shaped boxes, upping the price on sentimentality. When florists rub their hands in heartfelt glee and card manufacturers weep in joy at the sales. That’s what Valentine’s Day is. That, and a chance for people to show how much they love each other so they can ignore the feeling for the rest of the year.

You might gather I’m a cynic about these merchant manufactured occasions. We can thank the Victorians for a lot of this, from Valentine’s Day to birth stones to all those events where it’s the thing to do, you know; to give jewelery or flowers or chocolate. Like so many other things, emotions have been manipulated by the need to sell sell sell.

And really, the original St. Valentine was a martyr. We don’t know which Valentine this heartwarming occasion is based on because there were two or three and none of them had anything to do with sentimental love. Chaucer wrote about and fictionalized the day, though it’s possible it was tied to the earlier Roman celebration of Lupercalia for health and fertility. Chaucer lived in the era of troubadours and courtly love, when the idea of a pure and chaste love, of flirting endlessly without consummating the sentiment was the height of courtly deportment. If you think about it, a Christian martyr might be more likely to have died of spiking or crucifixion than of a  broken heart.


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But true to the gooey feelings of Valentine’s Day, it seems that the tales were fabricated. We know the heart shape is old and has been used for centuries but there is debate of how the shape came about since the human heart has only a vague similarity to the heart symbol. It could have been the silphium seed, a heart-shaped contraceptive plant, or the representation of a woman’s buttocks, vulva or pubic mound. If indeed the representation is one of the latter, then imagine a young man giving his love a card with a valentine, or a woman doing the same. It seems it wouldn’t have been so much the gesture of sentimental love as it would have been of lust.  “Here you are, I’m giving myself to you. Here’s my vulva. Let’s have sex.” Hmm, kind of ruins that dewy-eyed view of Valentine’s Day. But then, have people really ever needed a reason to have sex? Excuses yes, but the reason was already there.

I prefer to think people can demonstrate affection, love and lust whenever they choose to. So however you celebrate your Valentine’s Day, whether it be with giving a rose or gorging on the love-replacing chocolate, may it be stress free. 😀

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All About Hearts

Well, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, another Hallmark moment date for florists and candy makers to make some bucks. A moment for everyone to declare their love for one another and then forget about it for the rest of the year. I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day except for the chocolate. I don’t believe some commercial enterprise should tell people when to express their love. A healthy relationship should involve a few declarations or symbols throughout the year, from one person to the other and not rely on prodding from the world of merchandise.

But the heart shape seems to be quite old, and stylized, although it doesn’t much resemble the human heart. Still, way back when humans started using it to symbolize the heart and love. Some argue that the silphium seed pod, which is heart shaped, is where the design came from but the truth is lost in antiquity. What we do know is that the heart has figured big in spiritual and emotional matters since at least the times of the Egyptians.

The heart would be weighed against truth, and early theories involved the heart being the seat of reason, the soul or emotion. Even though today we know that thoughts and emotions are generated by the brain and can cause a physiological reaction in the body, still our language is peppered with allusions to the heart still being the seat of emotion.

You have to have heart, goes one song. It should come from the heart, means it should be done with feeling. People will touch the vicinity of their chest housing the heart (though usually higher that the heart’s true location) and say, It touched me, or I felt it here. You have a cold heart, is a common enough thing to say to someone who seems to lack feeling or compassion.

Some conjecture that the heart is the shape of a woman’s buttocks or that it is the vagina (or possibly the uterus). All of these are just guesses because we will never know who first made the shape so stylized. But the heart is a unique shape that we recognize the world over as much as the circle, square, star or diamond. It’s asymmetrical and different and it will forevermore be part of a symbol for emotion, love, the physical heart and Valentine’s Day. So whether I like it or not, chocolates are sure to be dispensed in heart shaped boxes for at least another 100 years or so.

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