Wednesday, February 1, 2012


By Julie Rahm

Valentinus was a Christian priest in Rome who, sometime between 269 and 273 was arrested and condemned by the Pagan Emperor Gelasius II for performing Christian marriage ceremonies. While Valentinus was in prison, the Emperor took a liking to him and spared his life; until Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor to Christianity. For these attempts at conversion, Valentinus was sentenced to death by stoning. But, Valentinus survived the beating and stoning. And eventually, he was beheaded. Later in 496, the Feast of Saint Valentine was established by the Pope.

Fast forward to 1797 when a British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which contained romantic phrases for young lovers unable to compose their own. As the popularity of these Valentines grew, British printers began producing their own. Enter, in 1847, Esther Howland from Worcester, Massachusetts. Esther’s father owned and operated a large book and stationery store. She received one of these British Valentines from her father’s business associate. Esther convinced her father to produce and market Valentines. As you guessed, this was start of the 1 billion Valentines that are exchanged each year in the United States. Since 2001, The Greeting Card Association has presented an annual “Esther Howland Award for a greeting Card Visionary”. Now you know!

Certainly, the Valentines Day holiday has inauspicious beginnings. It started with imprisonment, beating, stoning and a beheading! And, the holiday was promulgated by a desire to market stationery and earn money. Still, I like the holiday. The day provides us an opportunity to focus on personal relationships. My husband, John may not share the same ideas. He knows the history behind Valentines Day. When I mention the day is arriving, he asks if I want to celebrate the beating, stoning or beheading! I don’t think that’s funny at all. But, I allow him the sick humor because eventually we’ll get to some explicit conversation about our desires for the holiday. The minimum for me is a card along with some quiet morning coffee. Chocolate is nice. Chocolate along with some good red wine is really nice. Dinner out, chocolate and red wine is really, really nice.

I concede that Valentines Day is driven by females. It doesn’t have to be that way. Males need to “step up to the plate”. Regardless, my message is that Valentines Day is an opportunity to effect change in your relationship. Males, muster some courage and have some explicit conversation with her. Females, please encourage him by providing a safe environment to express himself. If conversation is going to make it worse, he is not going to talk. This can work. As evidence, this week marks my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. They were married in 1962. Were there even cars or television in 1962? My husband John says he’s been married thirty years, just not to the same wife. I don’t think that’s funny either. Follow my blog at and see my latest book at

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