The history of Valentine’s Day

The History of Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is the one day a year dedicated to all things love. But as all of the red and pink hearts and flowers begin to appear, it begs the question–how much do you really know about the history of Valentine’s Day?

Surprisingly, the origins of the holiday are a little unclear. Most people will agree the modern holiday arose from the religious observance of the Feast of St. Valentine. While February 14 is now celebrated around the world as a day of love, here are some little-known facts about the evolution of this love-filled day:

Connections to the Feast of St. Valentine

  • The mid-February date may have ties to the pagan festival, Luperchalia, during which there was a ceremony to bestow fertility on women. To counteract this, Pope Gilasius declared February 14 as the feast of St. Valentine in 498 A.D.
  • There were several Saint Valentines, but the one who stands out most is St. Valentine of Rome. He was a priest during the reign of Claudius II (who banned marriages in an effort to keep his army strong). St. Valentine is credited not only with secretly performing marriages until he was caught and sentenced to death, but upon his execution, supposedly passed a note to a love interest that was signed “from your Valentine.”
  • Early references to Valentine’s Day having romantic connotations appear in works by both Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare.

Traditions and Icons of Valentine’s Day

  • Cupid started out as the Greek god, Eros, who then became the bow and arrow-clad Roman god of love.
  • The tradition of personally exchanging valentines began in the 1700s. By the 1800s, when postal service became more affordable, mailing valentines (sometimes anonymously) became a more popular tradition.
  • The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 1 billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, behind Christmas.

International Observances of Valentine’s Day

  • Throughout most of South America, Día del Amor y la Amistad (or the Day of Love and Friendship) is observed by showing love toward romantic companions and doing acts of kindness for friends. A similar holiday called Ystävänpäivä (or Friend’s Day) is celebrated in Finland.
  • In Slovenia, Valentine’s Day marks the date to begin working the fields and vineyards again.
  • In Japan and Korea, it is customary for women to give chocolates to men on February 14. One month later, on March 14 (referred to as White Day), men are expected to reciprocate with their own gift.
  • Valentinsdag is celebrated in Denmark and Norway by sharing a romantic dinner and sending a card or red rose.

Continuing this centuries-old tradition simply reaffirms the importance of recognizing the love we share with friends and family. It might just be one day a year, but it is one that means so much to them to hear how you truly feel.


How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? We’d love to hear your unique traditions!


Candy Corn —Friend or Foe?

Happy National Candy Corn Day!

Happy National Candy Corn Day!

Whether you find it terrifyingly gross or totally tasty, candy corn season is upon us and there’s quite the heated debate over this little triangled gob of goo. There seems to be no middle ground here—candy corn is either loved or loathed, but no matter what corner of this sugared kernel you stand in, there’s one truth that stays constant year after year—we wouldn’t have Halloween without it.

This unassuming tri-colored tidbit has been voted the Most Traditional Candy of Halloween Least Loved by Consumers. However, the National Confectioners Association reports that 35 million pounds are produced annually. That’s 9 billion pieces. So…someone’s got to be eating it, right?

Made primarily from sugar, corn syrup, wax, artificial coloring and binders, you either savor this happy-colored, sugary corn confection, or pass it by on your way to the Reese’s.

So, which side of the debate do you stand on? Do you happily graze on these sugary kernels, savoring the quintessential taste of all things fall, or do you equate it more with drinking a bottle of Karo syrup and eating a candle, exclaiming, “Fall doesn’t want to taste like that!”


Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the culmination of the Jewish High Holy Days that began with Rosh Hashanah. It is considered to be the holidays day of the year for Jewish people and is traditionally observed with fasting and attending prayer services at temple. It is believed that the fate of each person for the year to come is sealed on this day.


L’Shanah Tovah!

Rosh Hashanah Fun Facts from

L’Shanah Tovah! Last night at sundown, the Jewish New Year began with Rosh Hashanah. This two-day celebration is a time of reflection and repentance, and marks the beginning of the High Holy Days. It’s a time for sending good wishes for the year and gathering with family and friends.

Fun facts about Rosh Hashanah

How much to do you know about Rosh Hashanah? We’ve compiled some interesting facts about this Jewish New Year celebration:

  •  Rosh Hashanah means “beginning of the year” in Hebrew.
  • A significant ritual is the sounding of the Shofar—a hallowed out ram’s horn that is blown like a trumpet and used as a call to repentance.
  • No work is allowed on Rosh Hashanah.
  • The common salutation is “L’shanah tovah,”  which means “for a good year.”
  • Pomegranates are eaten because the number of seeds believed to be contained in the fruit (613) is the same number of mitzvoth (commandments) associated with the Jewish faith.
  • Fish is a typical dish served and represents knowledge, since its eyes are always open, and it is customary for the head of the fish to be placed in front of the head of household.
  • The most popular food custom is eating apples and honey to express hope for a sweet new year.
  • According to the Talmud, the world was created on the first day of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. So, Rosh Hashanah is considered a birthday of sorts for the world.

Happy New Year from us to you!


I have a dream…


On today, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, we pause to reflect on his vision for America–how far we’ve come, and just how far we still need to go in order to ensure equality for all.

To watch a “realtime” feed of the events of this historial day in history, follow NPR’s @Todayin1963 on Twitter. They’ve compiled facts from  this pivotal moment in history and will be tweeting them as if they happened today.


Observing Ramadan

About Ramadan from

Ramadan takes place during what is considered the holiest and most blessed month of the Islamic calendar—the time when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and calls for Muslims to abstain from food and drink for 30 days during daylight hours.

Each year, there are varying start and end times around the world depending on the lunar calendar. During Ramadan, fasting begins at dawn and continues through sunset. This year, Ramadan in the United States is estimated to begin on Tuesday, July 9, once the new moon is sighted, and continue for approximately 30 days until Wednesday, August 7.

In addition to fasting, Muslims observing Ramadan pray, take time for inward reflection and to focus on their faith as well as complete charitable acts. Mosques throughout the United States and around the world hold night prayers called Taraweeh in which the entire Quran is recited over the 30-day period.

Before the sun rises, most Muslims begin the day with prayer and the suhoor or early morning meal. Once the sun sets, fresh or dried dates are used to break the fast, as was the known tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. Breaking of the fast includes prayer and the evening Iftar—a meal eaten with family that often features nutritious and hydrating foods to help sustain and replenish the body from the fast.

At the conclusion of Ramadan, the three-day festival of Eid-al-Fitr begins and men, women and children attend mosque for special prayers. During the celebration, homes are decorated with lights and time is spent with family and friends to enjoy large meals and exchange gifts.


Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day from

From Vancouver to Halifax, July 1 marks Canada’s birthday and the date that Canadians commemorate their independence from the United Kingdom. “Canada Day” or “Fête du Canada” is a national day of celebration filled with parades, citizenship ceremonies, free concerts and fireworks.

Originally known as “Dominion Day,” the holiday recognizes the July 1, 1867 anniversary of the British North America Act that united Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada into the Dominion of Canada, becoming the second largest country in the world.

First acknowledged as a proclamation in 1868 and then a statute in 1879, “Dominion Day” became more widely celebrated in the 1980s. For years, observances have been held in Ottawa, Ontario—the nation’s capital—and eventually those events were nationally televised. In the early 1980s, government support and funding was made available to inspire and plan more celebrations across the country. The holiday was officially renamed “Canada Day” in 1982.

Canada’s largest celebration is still in Ottawa, where activities include official flag raising and changing of the guard ceremonies. A host of public events featuring performing artists and musicians and multicultural entertainment continue throughout the day then culminate with a brilliant fireworks display behind Parliament Hill. The Canadian Prime Minister and Governor General typically preside over the festivities, and sometimes the Queen of England or another member of the royal family attends the celebration.

Since many families and friends across Canada celebrate Canada Day with picnics, barbeques and outdoor activities, we thought we’d share a few delicious recipes that use some of Canada’s favorite natural resources:   

Happy Canada Day to our friends to the north! And thank you for some of our favorite things Canadian like Hockey, Smarties candies and Velcro to name just a few.


Happy Flag Day

 Happy Flag Day from

Today is Flag Day – a day to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States which occurred in 1777. Although recognized in various states earlier, it was officially established as a national holiday in 1949. And if you happen to be in Quincy, Massachusetts on this day, you will witness one of the longest-running parades celebrating this patriotic event.

Be sure to display your flag and get your friends into the red, white & blue spirit by sharing this fun America Furever Talking Card from American Greetings!


Happy Memorial Day!


Happy Memorial Day from

While each of us celebrates this three-day weekend in our own favorite way—whether it’s with a backyard barbeque, a family camping trip, or taking time to plant your flowers—we all know there’s a much greater purpose for Memorial Day than simply kicking off the summer season. Today is the day for us as a nation to pause and remember the men and women of the military who lost their lives serving our country.

Originally introduced in 1868 as “Decoration Day”, its purpose was to honor fallen Civil War soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers.  Renamed Memorial Day after World War I, it was then expanded to pay respect to all Americans who died in military service.  It’s believed the last Monday in May was chosen because that’s when flowers are in bloom all over the country.  President Nixon finally made Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1971.

Today, there are countless Memorial Day events nationwide that range from lively parades to traditional ceremonies, like laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. But even if you’re celebrating in your own backyard, you can still pay respect to our nation’s heroes in simple yet meaningful ways:

  •  Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 pm: “As we contemplate the comforts and blessings of our lives and the well-being of our nation, I ask you to pause just for a moment to remember those who gave their lives to protect the values that give meaning to our lives.” – President Bill Clinton, May 31, 1999
  •  Decorate a Veteran’s Grave: During Memorial Day Weekend, several thousand bouquets are placed at the Nations War Memorials in Washington, D.C.   You can sponsor a thank-you bouquet through the National Memorial Day Foundation.
  •  Show Your Sympathy:  Memorial Day can be a difficult time for those who have lost someone in the military.  Whether you reach out by phone, email or an  ecard, your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

It’s important to remember that the brave men and women we’re commemorating today died not only for our freedom as a nation, but for each one of us personally to live a safe and fulfilling life. To those of you currently serving in the military, we honor you with the utmost respect and gratitude and wish you a happy and peaceful Memorial Day.


Thanks to Our Armed Forces


Tomorrow, we celebrate Armed Forces Day–a day to honor the men and women who serve in our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard as well as our National Guard and Reserves. This day, which is part of a week-long tribute, was first established in 1949 and stemmed from the unification of our military forces under the Department of Defense. Special dedications, parades, military exhibits, themed motorcycle rides and educational activities for children are some of the ways Armed Forces Day is acknowledged, so you’ll want to check out the local listings to see what’s happening near you. But, most important, be sure to say thanks to those who so bravely and unselfishly protect our freedom!


The Meaning of Passover…


Passover begins today at sunset and is an eight-day celebration that commemorates the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.  But here’s more of the story…

After decades of slavery to Egyptian pharaohs, God helped the Israelites escape by sending ten plagues to Egypt.  At the stroke of midnight, the tenth plague killed every first-born Egyptian, but God spared the children of Israel by passing over their homes—hence the name for the holiday.  Pharaoh finally relented and virtually chased  600,000 Israelites out of the land.  In fact, they left in such a hurry, the bread they baked didn’t have time to rise or leaven before they made the trek back to Israel. Originally, the unleavened bread was tossed into baskets and baked by the sun, resulting in a flatbread or cracker.  Now, those who adhere to Jewish dietary laws rid their homes of all leavened bread, called chametz, before Passover begins. Passover is divided into two parts.  The first two days and last two days are full-fledged holidays, while the  “intermediate days,” called chol hamoed, are semi-festive and work is permitted.

Wishing you all a Healthy and Happy Passover!


Celebrating Purim


Today is Purim! This festive Jewish holiday commemorates the bravery of a young girl, Esther, who saved her people from being massacred in Persia in the fourth century BCE. Her story, which is the basis of the Biblical Book of Esther, tells of how she won the heart and hand of King Ahasuerus with her great beauty. She kept her heritage a secret, but when her guardian, Mordecai, discovered the evil vizier Haman was going to have all Jews killed, she risked her life by revealing her identity to the king. Miraculously, the tables were turned on Haman, as the king adored Esther; her people were saved while Haman was put to death.

This wonderful holiday is celebrated with the community, and at the synagogue, the Scroll of Esther—the Megillah—is read. But don’t think this is a somber event! Every time Haman’s name is mentioned, the congregation hollers and shouts, and shakes graggers, or noisemakers, to drown out the evildoer’s name, which adds to the fun. Temples and community centers often host plays and carnivals, and the children dress up in costumes ranging from superheroes to Queen Esther herself.

Of course, a holiday wouldn’t be complete without delicious food, and Purim is no exception! One of the most important treats is hamantashen, a filled, three-cornered pastry named after evil Haman. Kreplach, a filled pasta, is also traditionally served at the seudah, or the celebratory meal. It’s definitely a day for partying!

Friendship and charity are important themes of Purim, and so people give gifts of food to friends and donations to those who are in need. After all, the joy of the day, and the miracle of good over evil is something that’s meant to be shared.


Groundhog Day

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Did you know that Groundhog Day, which is celebrated mainly in the United States, is closely linked with Candlemas Day originated by the early Christians in Europe? According to folklore, it was the Germans, Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers, who eventually brought this tradition to North America. Interestingly, the groundhog closely resembled the English hedgehog, which was considered to be a wise and sensible animal. The settlers decided that if the sun was out on February 2, this wise animal would see its shadow and have the good sense to jump back in its hole for another six weeks of winter.

Well, six weeks or not, we must all persevere — happy wintering, everyone!


Football Rules


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There’s no arguing that football rules this weekend — the championship game will take place on Sunday determining which conference team, American or National, will take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy. First played in 1967, this game has become so popular that many consider it a national holiday. Here is some fun trivia:

  • It is the second-largest food consumption day after Thanksgiving.
  • Of the ten most-watched television shows of all time, nine of them are the “Big Game”.
  • The average cost to run a 30-second commercial during the game is just under $3 million.
  • An estimated 1 billion chicken wings are consumed on Sunday and no, there isn’t a shortage!
  • Antacid sales typically spike by 20% on Monday following the game–go figure.

So, whether you’re a diehard 49ers or Ravens fan, intrigued by the first-time test of brotherly love as the Harbaugh coaches battle for number 1 status, or you just like to watch the commercials–enjoy the show! And, remember, you can always resume your “Get Fit’ resolution post-game.

In the mood board: Fowl Play Talking Card from American Greetings


Christmas Traditions

Classic Santa Class

It’s Christmas—time for trimmed trees, lights, mistletoe, Santa, and of course, greeting cards. Have you ever wondered how these traditions started? Well, a quick trip around the world can answer that!

Trimming the Tree: In Germany, fir trees were associated with Christmas nearly 500 years ago, with fruit, flowers and candies used as decorations. Prince Albert brought the tree to England when he married Queen Victoria, and the tradition came to America with the Pennsylvania Germans. Along the way, new types of Christmas ornaments were added, from homemade ornaments to little presents and trinkets.

Christmas Lights: It’s said that Martin Luther, a famous German monk, was inspired by the heavenly stars to add candles to a fir tree. A large Christmas candle, symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World, still burns throughout Christmas night, especially in Europe.

Mistletoe: First used by the Norse as a symbol of peace– warriors would meet under it to reconcile. Other cultures saw it as a sign of fertility, and as a blend of both beliefs, today couples kiss under it.

Santa Claus: Most stories link the jolly fellow with St. Nicholas of Myra, (Turkey), who generously gave money and gifts to those in need. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, but it’s Father Frost who visits the children there. In other countries, such as Spain and Mexico, the Three Kings are also givers of gifts.

Greeting Cards: It’s back to England for the first commercial greeting card, created by Sir Henry Cole in 1843 because he was just too busy to write individual messages for his friends! He probably would have loved the time-saving benefit of personalized paper cards and ecards today, especially in sharing his still popular wish:

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You!