Book Review: The Story of Valentine’s Day

Rating: ★★★★☆

Valentine’s Day, generally understood as a celebration of romantic love, is a cultural phenomenon in the West.  Sweethearts exchange cards, candies and gifts, and children in classrooms everywhere also participate in the tradition, inviting one another to “be my valentine,” with pre-printed or handmade cards and candies, often competing to see who will receive the most valentines.  But most people have no idea how the holiday came to be.

Clyde Robert Bulla’s attractive, readable book lays out the most prominent theories about this mysterious holiday’s origins, beginning with describing (in sanitized form) its probable origin in the first-century Roman festival of Lupercalia.  When Christianity came to Rome, in keeping with religious practice of the time, the festival was dedicated to a Catholic saint.  There are a few saints named Valentine, and Bulla gives brief biographies of two of the more likely candidates to have been honored with the day.  He then traces how Valentine’s day was observed in different parts of the Western world through the Middle Ages and into modern times.  He closes with instructions for easy-to-make traditional valentine cards, and a recipe for heart-shaped cookies.

In a society obsessed with romantic love, it is refreshing and heartening to be given a historical context for the modern flurry of flowers, cards, and candy.  Children who have read this book will benefit from a much richer understanding of what the day means.

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Publication Information: Bulla, Clyde Robert. Story of Valentine's Day, The. Kwas, Susan Estelle (Illustrator). HarperCollins. 2000. ISBN: 0064436268.
Categories: 4 Stars, Age 04-08
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Posted on February 14, 2011

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