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Why We Celebrate Valentine’s Day

This day invites us to express the heavy burden of affection our hearts carry all year long

Card companies are into their third century of making Valentine’s Day big business, and they’ll help us exchange millions of Valentines this year. But commercial mobilization doesn’t make February 14 a Hallmark holiday. It’s neither by accident nor artifice that we celebrate Valentines’ Day.
    The urge is way stronger than paper or binary codes creating pretty pictures on a computer screen.
    The holiday devoted to love is a fact of biology, stirring in lust — or whatever you call the life force stirring throughout the vegetable and animal kingdom.
    Despite the weather — likely to be frightful in the second week in February — Mother Nature is warming her children up. I say despite, but who knows? Maybe it’s because of the weather outside that throughout nature, internal temperatures start climbing this time of year.
    Cold-blooded creatures are already feeling the call, as Sporting Life columnist Dennis Doyle reminded us in his column of Feb. 2:
    Most days, temperatures put us in winter. But our daylight hours have been getting longer for a number of weeks. So the yellow perch know that their springtime is here.
    The sap is flowing in creatures confined to cold earth, too. Witch hazel and winter jasmine are blooming, pussy willows are fattening and bulbs from snowdrop to crocus to daffodil to hyacinth to garlic are sending up shoots.
    Birds, too, get together on or about the Ides of February.
    On Saint Valentine’s Day every fowl cometh to choose his mate, wrote 14th century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.
    Proving there’s truth in legend are our own herons, which arrive like clockwork in their Chesapeake rookeries to set up nest just this time of year.
    Humans have long gotten into the act.
    The Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia was indulged about this time of year, when longer days and the first green shoots assured that spring would indeed return.
    The month itself takes its name from Juno Februata, the mother-goddess in her amorous state.
    I don’t know about trees, though spring flowers are the year’s most brilliant. Certainly among animal species, love doesn’t come for free. First comes allurement.
    Yellows perch gild in preparation for spawning. Birds exchange winter drab for comely colors. The rituals of courtship demand display, bowing and scraping.
    Naturally, it’s the male of the species who wears the mantle of courtship and leads the dance.
    So we women reap the bounty of Valentine’s Day. Women may give tokens of our affection. He — if he’s looking for love or seeking to keep the love he’s got — is bound to. Chocolate, the nectar of love; flowers, the symbols of love; dining out, the food of love; hearts in many media, including sugar, the organ of love; jewelry, the wealth of love; and, above all, Valentine’s cards, the messengers of love: All are his obligations.
    (Note to men: If you’ve read this far, you’ve lost the excuse of ignorance. No longer can you say, Nobody told me. As to Who made that rule, it’s Nature’s way.)
    This year, however, allows some exceptions to the rule. It’s Leap Year, that oddity of the calendar that every four years gives February 29 days and women the right to be aggressors in love. Gentlemen who’ve bestowed love tokens bountifully on past Valentine’s Days may hope to be rewarded in kind.
    Valentine’s Day deserves a big deal, for it’s the day we get to express the heavy burden of affection our hearts carry all year long.
    So once again this year, Bay Weekly dedicates this issue to love stories. Seven couples, united from five years (though married only a month) to 50 have shared their love stories to warm your heart and remind you of your own legends of love. I encourage you to go there, in reading and in reverie. The stories are lovely. As are your own, for whether coupled or not, we’ve all warmed to love, and recalling those moments will warm the winter of 2012.