Today is a special day on most church calendars. It is Ash Wednesday. Tomorrow is a special day on most everybody’s calendar. It is Valentine’s Day. February 13 and February 14 are special days for very different reasons. How often these two occur so close on the calendar I do not know but it must not be often.
Ash Wednesday is described as the fourth day before the first Sunday in Lent or by others as the first Wednesday preceding the first Sunday in Lent. For many it is a reminder of Christ’s forty days fasting in the desert. The actual date of Easter differs from year to year depending on the full moon. It ranges from March 22 to April 18. This year it falls on Sunday, March 31.
There was mention of fasting in the third century as a penitence during Lent. Ash Wednesday appeared around the seventh century and was associated with the penitent being sprinkled with ashes, dressed in sackcloth, and obliged to remain apart from the congregation until Maundy Thursday when they were welcomed back to the Christian community.
By the eighth century the whole congregation, both the clergy and the people, received the ashes. Eventually and of now the cross is formed on the forehead with ashes remaining from burning the palms on the previous Palm Sunday.
Would you believe that St. Valentines Day is the second most celebrated day of the year, following number one New Year’s Day. It is true there were at least two saints named Valentine and both were martyred but why the day bears their name is pretty murky.
It was in the high middle ages that love became associated with the spring season of February. Maybe it was because it was mating season for birds or perhaps thoughts went back to the Roman Festival of Lupercalia when love was celebrated. By the fifteenth century gifts of flowers and sweets accompanied words of love.
It was in the 1400s that handwritten Valentines made an appearance. London has the oldest, written in 1415 by Charles, the Duke of Orleans, to his wife as he was held prisoner in the Tower of London. More Valentine letters appeared during the 17th and 18th century.
In Worcester, Massachusetts she is known as the “Mother of the American Valentine.” Esther Howland began making fancy Valentines for sale in the 1840s. By the 1900s printed cards were being sold in the United States. Billions are sold annually today and most are purchased by women.
Two very special days side by side but both express a different kind of love.
Bill Carey is a name Tennesseans should salute. This man loves history and when he learned schools had down graded Tennessee history he did something about it.
In 2004 he created a non-profit Tennessee History for Kids, which offers nonfiction booklets on the subject. One group is for use in the elementary and middle school and others are written for high school. These booklets sell for $2 each and means an entire classroom can be supplied for the cost of a single hard back text book.
The website, www.tnhistoryforkids.org, has videos on geography economics, and history of counties and cities in the state as well as notable Tennesseans. Carey appears as “History Bill” in many of these videos. Adults too can learn much about their state from viewing the website.
Love comes in many forms.