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Farmers’ Almanac Shares the Legends and Lore of Valentine’s Day

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Press Release

DATE: February 13, 2013

Contact: Peter Geiger, Philom., Editor – 207-755-2246 –

Sandi Duncan, Philom., Managing Editor – 908-689-0960 –

(Continued Below)

LEWISTON, Maine — February 14 here, and lovers, friends, and suitors will be exchanging candy, flowers, and gifts in the name of St. Valentine.

But why do we celebrate this holiday, and who is this patron saint? The 2013 Farmers’ Almanac offers some insight.

According to the 196-year-old publication, one legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, so he outlawed marriage for young men, which were his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February around the year 270.

Another legend professes that Valentine actually sent the first “Valentine” greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been the jailor’s daughter who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed, “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still used today.

The tradition of Valentine’s cards did not become widespread in the United States until the 1850s when Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke graduate and native of Worcester, Massachusetts, began mass-producing them. Today, of course, the holiday has become a booming commercial success.

Here is some more Valentine’s Day trivia, courtesy of the Farmers’ Almanac:

– According to English tradition, a woman will marry the first man she sees on Valentine’s Day.

– The first recorded Valentine was sent in 1415, by Charles, Duke of Orleans.

– The tomato is also known as the “love apple.”

– Scrimshaw, the art of scratching or carving designs into bone, tusk, or wood originated as love tokens from sailors.

– Phenethylamine is the natural chemical that makes chocolate so addictive.

– The practice of using an “X” to represent kisses grew out of the medieval practice of letting those who could not write mark documents with an “X” in place of their names. This was done in the presence of witnesses, and a kiss was given upon the “X” to show sincerity. The “X” then became synonymous with the kiss in the minds of most people.

– Some people used to believe that if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire.

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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