NPR-Valentines

Drawn From The Heart: Your Most Memorable Valentine's Day Cards

No snark or anti-commercialism rantings here, just a dose of simple sweetness. We asked readers to share their most memorable Valentine’s Day cards; here are a few of our favorites, edited for length and clarity. And we asked NPR illustrator Chelsea Beck to re-create two valentines that live on only in their recipients’ memories.

Renae Quinn, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

My favorite valentine ever was from my late husband on the Valentine’s Day before we married. He gave me a box and lined up in the box were a drawing of an eye, a paper heart on a spring that popped up when I opened the box, a pink foam letter U, a chocolate-covered strawberry, and a baggie full of dirt from the garden in front of our apartment.

I was mystified. I mean I got the “I love you so very” part clearly enough, but the dirt? I said, “You love me so very dirty?” I didn’t care for that! He kept saying, “No, think about it.”

But all I could come up with was, “I love you so very dirt.”

He finally told me, “MULCH! It’s mulch!”

So it said, “I love you so very much.” Duh.

It’s still my favorite ever.

Christine Hull, Springvale, Maine

Three years ago, when my son was 7, he made a collection of small valentines that he distributed throughout our house. Each valentine was unique, and each involved a heart shape.

One was a simple red heart taped to the inside of a spoon. I found it while I was making my morning coffee and, of course, it brightened my day. Another was a pink bunny, who was especially cute because he was lopsided. Yet another was a series of yellow hearts arranged like petals of a sunflower. It was carefully taped to appear as if it were growing out from under my desk.

I was impressed by his creativity, but more so by the fact that he woke up early to hide each valentine for my husband and me to discover as we went through our day. He didn’t simply give us one valentine, he gave us a day full of discovering valentines.

Francha Menhard, Tel Aviv, Israel

I was teaching second-graders how to speak English. I was teaching them similes to describe things. “You are as quiet as a mouse,” “You are tall as the ceiling,” etc.

When Valentine’s Day came, wild and crazy J.R. gave me a heart cut out of plain white paper. On the heart, he wrote: “You are as beautiful as Wonder Woman. You are as fun as clowns. You are as smart as God. Love JR.”

I kept that valentine on my fridge until the sun bleached it out completely, some 14 years later. Thereafter, my sweet husband would remind me at bedtime that I was as beautiful as Wonder Woman. As fun as clowns. As smart as God. Just in case I forgot.

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Illustrations by Chelsea Beck/NPR

A heart-shaped box of chocolate is a sign of love, a symbol — and often tool — of romance, and an intrinsic part of Valentine’s Day.

From at least the time of the Aztecs, chocolate has been seen as an aphrodisiac. So it’s reasonable to assume that it has been connected to love’s dedicated day of celebration for many centuries. But, that isn’t the case.

The roots of Valentine’s Day are ancient but far from clear, and likely originated in the pagan Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia. Those Romans, though, exchanged not candies but whippings — part of a complicated fertility ritual that began with sacrificing a goat and dog.

This morphed into a tamer Christian feast day in A.D. 496, when Pope Gelasius I commemorated a martyred saint, Valentine. Or saints. In the third century, the Roman emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine on Feb. 14th, albeit in different years.

How Chocolate Became A Sweet (But Not So Innocent) Consort To Valentine’s Day

Illustration: Alex Reynold/NPR

Ich am Geoffrey Chaucer, and my litel poeme the Parliament of Foweles was the first to combyne the peanut buttir of Februarye the XIVth wyth the milk chocolate of wooing. And so Ich feel responsible to helpe wyth sum advyce on thys daye. Ich am heere wyth my bookes of lore and romaunce to answer yower questions, the which NPR hath pluckid from the great churninge ocean of sense and nonsense that on mappes of old ys called "The Twytter."

Love advice from Chaucer, via NPR.

Ann Leckie’s debut novel, the space opera Ancillary Justice, has won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel. The book, which is narrated by the artificial intelligence of a starship that has been transplanted into a single body, has been sweeping up many of the major sci-fi and fantasy awards, including the Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke awards. In a review for NPR, Genevieve Valentine wrote, “A space opera that skillfully handles both choruses and arias, Ancillary Justice is an absorbing thousand-year history, a poignant personal journey, and a welcome addition to the genre.”

Other winners of this year’s Hugo include John Chu’s “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” for best short story and Charles Stross’ Equoid for best novella.

More book news here.

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Morning Edition host David Greene and producer Lauren Migaki traveled to Crimea to see what’s changed since Russia sent troops in this spring and shortly afterward annexed the territory despite widespread international criticism. Their stories will be on air and online this week.

We’re traveling through flat farmland on a two-lane road in the far north of Crimea, when suddenly it’s interrupted by a checkpoint. Actually, Russia now considers it the border, a physical reminder of the new divide between Russia and Ukraine — and the West.

A guy in military camouflage, with a Kalashnikov rifle slung over his shoulder, sees NPR producer Lauren Migaki with her tape recorder going, and he makes it clear he wants it off.

She turns off the recorder. But that’s not enough. Another guy in military fatigues comes over and says we broke the law as foreigners by being so close to a Russian border. He takes our passports and asks our interpreter to come with him, leaving us to wait.

This little episode is a personal reminder that Russia is now in control. All across Crimea, the signs of Russian power and influence have arrived.

In Crimea, Many Signs Of Russia, Few Of Resistance

Photo credit: Max Avdeev for NPR