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Quincy, California
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February 8, 2012     Feather River Bulletin
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February 8, 2012
 

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Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 1B tine "s a e e Ingrid Burke Copy Editor iburke@plumasnews.com What's so special about Feb. 14? Why do we send flowers, give chocolate and share sentimental messages with friends and family? Historical scholars have identified many players in the evolution of Valentine's Day --- ancient Romans, early Christians, Catholic bishops, medieval courtiers, Victorian lovers and modern greeting card companies -- but they don't agree on a definitive source for the tradition. As a child, the story I heard went like this: Saint Valen- tine was a young nobleman who felt pity for the poor and gave his cloak to a beggar. Somehow the shape of the heart resulted, and our expressions of love commem- orate his selflessness. This story seems to have no basis in fact. Another widespread sto y whose details are unsubstantiated is this one: Valentine was a priest serving in Rome during the third century. In order that soldiers in his army have fewer family ties, the em- peror decreed that young men be forbidden to marry. Valentine took pity on young lovers and performed marriages in secret. When he was found out, he was sentenced to death. After failing to convert the emperor to Christianity, he healed his jailer's blind daughter and sent her a note before his execution, signed, "From your Valentine." According to church records, there were three different martyrs named Valentine associated with Feb. 14. None were linked to romance, however, and even the scant records of their martyrdoms are suspect, as early hagiographers (biographers of the saints) often elaborated if they didn't have many facts to go on. It wasn't until the 14th century that the sentimental aspects of Saint Valentine's Day began to emerge. In 1969, Pope Paul VI removed the feast day of Saint Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, citing too little historical information. Some believe that early Christians used Valentine's Day as a way to ease conver- sion of Roman pagans by commemorating Saint Valen- tine's death near the time of the Lupercalia festival. This ancient celebration of spring and fertility was observed in the middle of February and included animal sacrifices, fertility rituals for both women and fields, and chance pairings of young men and women via lottery. However, no link between romantic love and Valentine's Day has been found pre- dating Chaucer's mention, in 1382, of"Volantynys day" being the day birds find their mates. Scholars point out that Chaucer was likely referring to a different time of year, but the associa- tion seemed to stick. In 1415, Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote a poem to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London, calling her "ma tres doulce Valentin6e." This is considered the first "valentine." By 1797, sharing valentine cards and poems had become so commonplace that a British publisher offered a book of suggested verses for young men to use if their own talents failed them. A drop in postal rates allowed greater circulation and thee advent of anonymous(and often racy) valentines. Printers began designing cards including verses and sketches, and by the early 19th century paper valentines were so popular they were produced in factories. Americans were probably exchanging notes and small tokens of affection as early as the Valentine's Days of the 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther Howland, whose father owned a book and stationery store in Massachusetts, was inspired by the ribbons and lace of British valentines. She eventually coordinated the first mass-production of valentines in the United States, decorated with embossed paper lace. Since then, of course, retailers of gifts, flowers, candies and jewelry have joined in as well. An estimated i billion Valentine's Day cards are exchanged each year in the United States alone, mostly between family members and schoolchildren. Want to be part of that number and bring back the days of Creating your own unique expressions of love? Directions follow for some simple cards. Use the vintage examples and your own imagination as further inspiration! Sources: wikipedia.org, history.corn, celebratelove.com, news.u .eclu In her 19th-century valentine designs (example at left) Esther Howland introduced innovations such as layers of lace, wafers of colored paper be- neath lace and three-dimensional accordion effects. Her cards also displayed a range of vivid primary colors, rather than merely today's dominant pinks, reds and muted tones. Original valentines produced by Howland are held in American Antiquarian Society collections in Howland's hometown of Worcester, Mass. Image courtesy American Antiquarian Society For more Valentine's Day traditions, see page 14B. Watercolor wonder To create elegantly simple Valentine's Day cards, cut out heart shapes from paper painted in a watercolor wash, and write messages in col0fed pen -- metallic gold and silver work well. Choose thick, high-q uality watercolor paper, as it absorbs the paint best and won't warp while drying. A wet watercolor technique works well for children, and produces a soft, fading effect. Put the paper on a board or safe work surface and wet thoroughly with a sponge. Use paint in complementary colors to create an abstract pattern or just a wash in varying tone and intensity. Let the painting dry, then use a cardboard template to cut out simple shapes, such as hearts. This is also a great way to recycle kids' art while sharing it with friends and family. Or use magazine pictures to create a collage to cut from. Cut-out cutie Pop-up cards can be as simple as the one shown here, or as complicated as your dexterity with scissors will allow. Search on- line for more ideas -- some come with free printable patterns. To make a sim pie pop-up, use medium-weight construction paper. Fold two pieces down the center. In one piece make two cuts as shown in the diagram, and fold the resulting square outward. Glue the uncut piece to the other as a backing, being careful not to glue down the folded square. Any type of paper decoration can be attached to the front surface of the square: a heart, a flower, a scroll with a message. Just make surethe decoration is small enough that it fits inside the folded card. When the card is closed, the square with its decoration will lie flat inside. When it is opened, the decoration will "pop" outward. To achieve texture without the mechanics of a pop-up, use foam- board: cut shapes slightly smaller than the elements you want elevated, and glue between the lifted image and the backing. Or try a "spring" made of a thin strip of paper, folded accordion-wise. Stamp stunner A potato stamp provides a fun and inexpensive way to create unique patterns. Choose a potato that is large enough to grip comfortably at one end. Slice it across the width, creating a fiat surface. Carve a symbol into this surface, using a kitchen knife or an X-acto blade. The pattern can be positive(carve away the parts you don't want in the pattern) or negative (carve a hollow in the shape of your pattern). Small cookie cutters can make this part much easier. Put some paint in a bowl, dip the cut end of the potato, and stamp away! Special effects can be created by allowing the repeated image to fade between dippings, and by creating patterns on different colored base papers. This basic technique works well with little hand- and foot- prints too, and also makes great wrapping paper --- stop by the newspaper office in Quincy for end rolls of newsprint, Follow these guidelines for creating the base of a simple pop-up card. Then attach a cut-out decoration to the front of the folded square: it will "pop" when the card is opened. Graphic courtesy craftideas4kids.com For elegant Valentine simplicity that can also involve the kids or grandkids, try a watercolor wash. Photo courtesy Nicole BenJamin, gardenmama.typepad.com A small cookie cutter makes forming the potato stamp easier, but free-form carving with a knife works too. Photo courtesy Danita Berg, hmemadeserenity'blgspt'cm J