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February 14

Every year when Valentine’s Day is drawing its bow, I get as curious as the next follow about the origins of the day and I always make it a point to get the story. Then, in the next 364 days, I promptly forget it and it comes as news all over again. So I was glad to find a few lines on it in this morning’s editions.

First signs of the celebration, according to this account, were two thousand years ago when Roman oracles observed that birds started pitching woo on the fourteenth of February and they inaugurated the Feast of Lupercalia . . . dedicated to the Goddess of Love. They marked it with sort of a Sadie Hawkins Day stunt. The Roman maidens put their names in a large urn, set up in the public square and the bachelors had to draw a blind date. Whatever name came out of the urn . . . that was the gal the guy was stuck with.

Around 1400 in England, the sending of Valentines became popular. But in those days, they were always sent anonymously. The idea was for the suitor to do up a fancy card and leave it unsigned on the doorstep of his lady love . . . then bang on the door and run away. Bashful fellows, weren’t they?

It was about the year 1400, too, when popular belief had it that the first person you saw on St. Valentine’s morning was eventually to be your wife . . . or husband . . . as the case may be. If you think there’s anything in that . . . you’d better be careful whom you see first on the morning of February 14th.