“Saint Valentine’s” Geoffrey Chaucer poetically said, “is when every foul comes there to choose their mate.” It was this 14th century poem that lifted St. Valentine from obscurity to romantic fame. Fairly soon many poets were using St. Valentine’s day as shorthand for romantic love. St. Valentine’s Day, like Candlemas, is a celebration of early spring and fertility with cultural roots going back to the Roman festival Lupercalia (so do Leprechauns for that matter). It is a way of celebrating our place as human creatures in creations cycle of nature.
The feast day of St. Valentine is a day to celebrate lovers by the exchanging of chocolates and cards. The story is that St. Valentine, when he was imprisoned, passed a card to his lover and signed it “from your Valentine” beginning the tradition. Some say that he officiated a wedding in prison before his execution. These, no doubt, are fanciful stories helping the day fit more with the theme of romance and early spring. The only thing that is known about the multiple St. Valentines (up to three are celebrated on this day) is that they all were martyrs of the early church put to death by Rome.
While this is not exactly the romantic story we were hoping for, it is a love story. It is the self-giving love of God poured upon the world in Christ Jesus, that the martyrs lived out. The Valentines and other nameless martyrs all are remembered for modeling this self-giving love to the world.
Somehow Chaucer’s opening line to the St. Valentine’s poem, “Parliament of Fowls,” says it best,
“So short our lives,
so hard the lessons,
so difficult the tests,
so sudden the final victory,
so tenuous the hope of joy
that so easily evaporates into fear –
this is what I mean by Love.”
Woodcut including image of Saint Valentine. Hand-colored in red lake, green, yellow, rose, and tan. 1470/1480; 13.4 x 9.5 cm; Part of the Rosenwald Collection of the US National Gallery of Art.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
1 lb strawberries (12- 15 medium sized strawberries)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz white chocolate, chopped
- Wash and dry the strawberries. Line sheet pan with parchment paper.
- In heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (double boiler method – make sure water does not touch the bottom of the heatproof bowl), heat bittersweet chocolate until almost completely melted, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir until completely melted.
- Holding berries by stem, dip each strawberry until at least 2/3rd or 3/4th coated in chocolate, being sure to leave some red at the top. Allow excess chocolate to drip off.
- Place prepared strawberries on sheet pan and chill in fridge until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes.
- At the end of the chill time, repeat the double boiler method with the white chocolate.
- Remove berries from fridge. Using a fork, drizzle white chocolate over the chocolate covered strawberries. Chill again until white chocolate has set, another 15 minutes.