different legends that have found their way to us through the ages. One of the earliest popular symbols of the day is Cupid, the Roman god of Love, who is represented by the image of a young cherub with bow and arrow.
Valentine’s Day is named after a Roman martyr named Valentine.
Actually, there are two Valentines in the history of Roman martyrs.
One was a Christian priest, who lived around 300 AD. He had been thrown in prison for his teachings, and for refusing to worship the Roman gods. He also supposedly cured the jailer’s daughter of her blindness. On February 14, this Valentine was beheaded. As the story goes, the night before he was executed, he wrote the jailer’s daughter a farewell letter, signing it, “From Your Valentine.”
The other Valentine was an Italian bishop who lived at about the same time. It is believed that he was imprisoned because he secretly married couples, contrary to the laws of the Roman emperor. Young men were forbidden to marry until they had served as soldiers. This Valentine was also reportedly beheaded, becoming a martyr for the cause of love.
Around February 14 there was a yearly Roman holiday, “Luperca – lia,” held near the caves of Luper- cal—the place where the mythical founders of Rome—Romulus and
Remus—were nursed as infants by a wolf. The date of this holiday, the association with fertility, and the belief that young men randomly chose the name of a young girl to escort to the festivities, may link the ancient festival with Valentine’s Day.
The custom of choosing a sweetheart on this date spread through Europe in the Middle Ages, and then to the early American colonies. During the 1700s, on Valentine’s Day young men wrote the name of their sweetheart on their sleeve, a practice that is probably the origin of the saying, “wearing his heart on his sleeve.” Throughout the ages, people also believed that birds picked their mates on February 14!
Whatever the odd mixture of origins, Valentine’s Day is now a day for sweethearts. It is the day that you show your friend or loved one that you care. You can send candy to someone you think is special. Or you can send flowers, particularly red roses, which are the flowers of love. Most people send their “valentines” a greeting card. These greeting cards are also called “valentines” after the notes that one St. Valentine wrote from jail. Valentine’s Day cards can be sentimental, romantic, and heartfelt. They can be funny and friendly. If the sender is shy, the valentine can be anonymous, or signed “Your Secret Admirer.” Americans of all ages love to send and receive valentines. Valen-
tines are often heart-shaped, or have drawings of hearts or Cupid, the symbols of love, on them. In some elementary schools, children bring or make valentines for all their classmates and put them in a large decorated box, similar to a mailbox. On February 14, the teacher opens the box and distributes the valentines to each student. After the students read their valentines, they have a small party with refreshments. Handmade valentines, often created by cutting hearts out of colored paper and decorating them with lace, ribbon, or other material, show that a lot of thought was put into making them personal.
People often write a short rhyme inside a homemade valentine, such as:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue Sugar is sweet And so are you!
For people of all ages, newspapers throughout the country have a
Valentine’s Day offer. Anyone can send in a message destined for a would-be sweetheart, a good friend, a son or daughter, a parent, an acquaintance, or even a spouse of fifty years. For a small fee, the message is printed in a special section of the newspaper on February 14. Even if no one writes one for you, these messages are fun and heart-warming to read. They often include pet names such as “sugar lump,” “teddy bear,” “sweetie pie,” or “honey.” People sometimes abbreviate words such as writing “4-ever” for “forever.”
emphasize: v. to give special significance; to stress legislator(s): n. people who make laws movement: n. large-scale group activities toward the achievement of a goal
preservation: n. protection from harm or destruction amend(ed): v. to change, as a law or regulation pollution: n. the harmful contamination or destruction of the environment with man-made waste and chemicals emission(s): n. carbon dioxide and other such harmful chemical substances sent (emitted) into the air from such things as automobiles and factories enact(ed): v. to make into a law
conservation: n. protection of something such as resources, the environment, way of life demonstration(s): n. a gathering of people for the purpose of public protest or support teach-in(s): n. an educational demonstration or rally envision(ed): v. to imagine; to form a mental picture grassroot(s): adj. from people at a local level rather than a central organization or agency sponsor(ing): adj. people or organizations that support and finance an activity embrace(d): v. accepted enthusiastically momentum: n. speed or force of motion celebrity(ies): n. famous people
recycle: v. to use again; to process old material for new use
exposition(s): n. exhibit
impact(s): v. to have a strong effect on
steward(s): n. one who is responsible for the preservation
and care of something
nniversary celebrations are
those that commemorate a particular date or past event. This might be an historical event, such as the first walk on the Moon; a military event, such as the beginning or ending of a war; a national event, such as the birth of a nation or the signing of a constitution; or a more personal event, such as the opening of a new business or the receipt of an award. Usually when we refer to anniversaries we are referring to a yearly event, but people may also choose to celebrate monthly or biannually. A large celebration might be held on a centennial anniversary. An anniversary celebration ranges from a small personal event such as a dinner for two people, to a large city-wide event such as a parade or fireworks.
Anniversary celebrations might be accompanied by balloons, flowers, special meals, or presents. In this reading, we discuss two common celebrations: birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
legend(s): n. a popular story, perhaps untrue, that is passed down through history
cherub: n. a type of angel appearing as a young boy with wings
martyr: n. a person who is killed, chooses to die, or suffer greatly for a cause or belief supposedly: adv. according to some people; it is assumed to be true
behead(ed): v. to execute by having one’s head cut off execute(d): v. to put to death by an official order mythical: adj. based on a traditional story or myth, or imagination
nurse(d): v. to care for; to nourish or feed from the breast
randomly: adv. by chance; not in any order
escort: v. to accompany; to go with or take to an event
sleeve: n. the part of a shirt that covers the arms
origin: n. beginning; source
mate(s): n. male or female member of a pair
sentimental: adj. emotional; full of feeling
heartfelt: adj. sincere
anonymous: adj. without the sender’s or author’s name
refreshment(s): n. light food and drink
destine(d): v. to be intended for; to be received by a
specific person or at a specific destination
would-be: adj. possible; hoped to be
acquaintance: n. a friend, but not a close friend
spouse: n. husband or wife
fee: n. a payment required for a service
pet name(s): n. phrase. sweet or endearing nickname;
special name given to a loved one
Birthdays are celebrated in a variety of ways in the United States. A birthday is considered a special day for the birthday person, so the person will often get special treatment from friends and family.
Children are usually very excited about their birthdays. At a
very early age, children know when their birthdays are and how old they are. Parents often host a party on their children’s birthdays. They will invite school friends, neighbors, or family members. It is expected that the people who are invited to a child’s birthday party will bring a present for the birthday child, unless they are told not to. The birthday party will undoubtedly feature a birthday cake topped with lighted candles, one candle for each year. As the cake is brought to the table, everyone sings “Happy Birthday.” When the cake is set before the birthday boy or birthday girl, he or she is supposed to make a wish (without telling anyone what it is) and blow out the candles. If all the candles go out with one breath, then the wish is supposed to come true. Ice cream is usually served with the cake. Children often open their presents after the cake and ice cream are served.
Adults also celebrate their birthdays, though not as regularly as children. If someone wants to celebrate his/ her own birthday, he or she may plan a party and invite friends or family. It is more likely that an adult will have a party if the birthday is a “big” one, such as for an age that ends in 0 or 5. Another “big” one is the age of 21 when a person is considered to be an adult. Sometimes adults get gifts at a birthday party, but not always. And while it is customary to say “Happy Birthday,” it is
not usually appropriate to ask an adult how old he or she is. At work, colleagues may celebrate a birthday by giving a group card, flowers, cake, or by taking the person out to lunch. Colleagues will often wish the person a happy birthday. However not all work places celebrate birthdays, and, in fact, many adults don’t want to celebrate their birthdays. Some people don’t like the reminder that they are continually getting older; others just don’t like being the center of attention.
Singing “Happy Birthday to You” when cake, flowers, or presents are given is a long-standing tradition. The song was written by two American sisters in 1893, and has been translated into several languages around the world.
Wedding anniversaries occur on the same day of the year the wedding took place. Married couples have many different ways of celebrating, but it is common for them to give each other flowers or small gifts, or enjoy a special dinner together. Sometimes couples plan a trip for themselves to celebrate this special day. On a couple’s first wedding anniversary, it is customary for them to eat the top tier of their wedding cake that they had saved and frozen just for this day.
Many wedding anniversary celebrations are quiet events that include just the married couple, but sometimes, especially if the couple has been married a long time, they will plan a party that includes their children, grandchildren, and possibly siblings, nieces, and nephews. At some large wedding anniversary celebrations, such as a 50th anniversary, a granddaughter or other relative might wear the bride’s wedding dress. Sometimes the couple decides to renew their wedding vows in front of their progeny.
Traditionally, specific materials are associated with particular anniversary years. Usually, the longer the period of time, the more precious or durable is the material that is associated with it. Sometimes the couple—or their families—use the list for gift suggestions.
The traditional list includes:
1 year—paper anniversary 5 years—wood anniversary 10 years—tin or aluminum anniversary 20 years—china (porcelain) anniversary 25 years—silver anniversary 50 years—gold anniversary 75 years—diamond anniversary