Romance was first linked to St. Valentine's Day in the 14th century when England's King Richard II announced his engagement to Anne of Bohemia. Geoffrey Chaucer commemorated their first anniversary with his poem, the Parliament of Fowls. In it, Chaucer compares the mating rituals of birds with those of humans. He writes that it is on St. Valentine's Day when birds choose their mates and relationships blossom. Undoubtedly, the term "lovebirds" stems from Chaucer's creative endeavor. 


If I count the ways I've celebrated Valentine's Day, among the favorites would include the years I spent making handmade cards with my five children, a night in eating  SEA SALT CARAMEL & CHOCOLATE FONDUE while playing DOMINOES and sipping sparkling apple cider in plastic champagne flutes with the seven of us giddy with laughter, and the year I gave my husband two framed photographs. Taken in the early 1970's, we are both three years old, wearing movie star sunglasses and posing for overexposed pictures that cost me an arm and a leg to restore. Even back then we looked like we belonged together. This year, we celebrate our 25th Valentine's Day together and my gift will be a CUSTOM DECOUPAGE trinket tray of our wedding day and a book of romantic poetry with a steaminess rating of PG-13. 


Cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs over 2,000 years ago, chocolate is the most popular sweet in the world today. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors returned to Spain with coffers filled with cocoa beans alongside treasure chests of silver and gold. The expensive import became a symbol of luxury, wealth, and power that the Spanish elite kept secret for nearly one hundred years. Only when the Spanish King's daughter, Anne of Austria, married France's King Louis XIV in 1615 did chocolate make its way from Madrid to Paris. It took another two hundred years for a Dutch chemist to unlock the secret to turning the bitter cocoa beans into a confectionary delight. Today, nearly half of the world's chocolate grows on the African continent along the Ivory Coast, and estimates calculate chocolate to be a $93 billion industry. No one knows with certainty how chocolates became a quintessential Valentine's Day treat, but this "food of the Gods" is in our hearts forever.

An annual American consumption rate of 12 pounds per person insures that just about anyone you choose to send or hand deliver a chocolate treat to will be over the moon. The Obama's are addicted to FRAN'S CHOCOLATES, with President Obama serving up his favorite SMOKED SALT CARAMELS to White House guests and his lovely wife indulging in GRAY SALT DARK CHOCOLATE CARAMELS. If you or your valentine prefer a grown up Snicker's bar, then indulge in the ALMOND GOLD BAR, a heavenly combination of roasted almonds, dark chocolate, and soft caramel. 


Imagine yourself in Rome during the 3rd century. Emperor Claudius II outlaws marriage for all young men. He concluded that unmarried men make better soldiers. No worries betrothed! A handsome priest named Valentine decides to defy the Emperor and marry young lovers in secret. Valentine's defiance is eventually revealed and Claudius sentences him to death for treason. However, his noble actions earn him status as a martyr and saint. In 486 A.D., Pope Gelasius declares February 14th a day in which to honor this priest with the penchant for consecrating matrimony.

Long symbolizing romance, friendship, marriage, and fertility, flowers became a custom associated with this day. Adopting a Persian tradition, the English upper class, during the reign of England's Queen Victoria, used flowers to convey messages that would otherwise be prohibited. Back in the day explicit verbal and written communication suggesting romantic interest was verboten, even if it was for amusement or harmless play. So, what does social etiquette dictate you do? Send flowers of course! Each lovely stem suggests a message and level of intimacy desired without saying anything out loud.

Quietly beautiful, white roses are serene. Greek myth says that all roses were white until Aphrodite pricked herself on a thorn and turned them all different shades. White roses are perfect if you are just in the "getting to know each other" beginning phase of courtship. Say, "I love you" with red roses and reserve yellow roses for your best friend. 


Not one to indulge in conformity, I do take pride in spoiling loved ones with off the beaten path gifts chosen to reflect something truly wonderful in them. On Valentine's Day, my darling Emily, who texts me ten times a day and signs every text with a red "xoxo", will find a pewter XOXO box under her pillow with a FRAN'S DARK CHOCOLATE CARAMEL HEART tucked inside. My three boys will wake up to the scent of VANILLA GRANOLA with HONEY & ALMONDS and a hearty, healthy breakfast of granola, raspberries, and yogurt served in STAUB CERAMIC COQUETTES.  

A hand written note is always lovely, and delivered with a warm hug even better. Last year, my hockey player counted and illustrated the 100 ways in which she loved me. It is the small things, the touch points, during each year that are everlasting. Do find a way to celebrate those you love with heartfelt gestures. Whether watching a classic romance movie such as Cinema Paradiso or SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, or rereading SHAKESPEARE'S LOVE SONNETS with a glass of champagne,  cherish those close to you this sappy, albeit working, holiday. XOXO

Dianne O'ConnorComment