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Flash Your Valentine!

I just wouldn't feel right if I didn't grab an opportunity to pass some obscure historical facts your way. So, as my Valentine's Day present to you, I've composed a brief history of how this holiday came to be.

St. Valentine's Day, like so many Western holidays, has its origins in ancient Rome. The Lupercalia, held annually on February 15, was one of Rome's oldest and most important festivals. During the Lupercalia, young men would go into the hills, sacrifice goats, get drunk and then race into the city wearing goatskin loincloths and whipping citizens with goatskin thongs. Later Romans added a tradition of drawing names to exchange gifts and love tokens.

The Christian church, of course, tried to dissuade its members from participating in such pagan festivals. An early attempt had people drawing names of saints and then trying to emulate the virtues embodied by the saint they chose. Not too suprisingly, this attempt fell quite flat. The church then established a holiday to commemorate Saint Valentine.

Legend has it that Saint Valentine was a priest in Rome under the rule of Emperor Claudius II. The emperor, theorizing that single men made better soldiers than married ones, outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Cladius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers. When the emperor learned of this, he had Valentine imprisoned and sentenced him to death.

While in prison, the story goes, Valentine healed a young girl (possibly his jailor's daughter) and the two promptly fell in love. She visited him regularly and tried to win his pardon, but to no avail. Shortly before his execution, on February 14, Valentine sent one last letter to his beloved. He signed it, "From your Valentine."

The fact that Valentinus was most likely a chaste man with no knowledge of love has not stopped his becoming one of the most recognizable symbols of romance in the western world. Today, people young and old exchange cards, gifts and candy bearing the words, "Be My Valentine." Special effects gurus are not immune to the Valentine's Day spirit, although we like to add a little more pizzaz to our romantic messages.

A flash paper rose is a unique way to show how you feel and demonstrate your pyrotechnic prowess at the same time. Using red and green Premium Flash Paper, construct a paper long-stemmed rose. After your intended sweetie has had a moment to admire its beauty, ignite the "stem" with a Thumb Thing or similar device. Add an appropriate comment like, "I get all fired up thinking of you." If the object of your affection shares your interest in pyrotechnics (you lucky guy!) you may want to have some extra paper on hand so that she can make her own present for you.

If roses are beyond your skill as a paper-folder, try making Valentine's Day cards out of white and red Premium Flash Paper. Cut the paper into Valentine-y shapes (hearts, cupids, etc) and write an appropriate message such as "You're Too Hot To Handle," or "You Set My Heart on Fire." Exchange the cards during a quiet dinner and then use them to start a romantic fire.

Of course, you cynics out there can always make anti-Valentine cards from black and green Premium Flash Paper. Cut the paper into unromantic shapes -- better yet, leave it square -- and write messages such as "Bah!" and "Valentines are for Weenies." Burn the cards in an old ashtray. Sulk.

However you choose to celebrate the holiday, remember to order your supplies soon. Premium Flash Paper is shipped wet with water and will require about twenty-four hours to dry completely. And you should always use care when working with any pyrotechnic product. Nothing spoils a romantic evening faster than singeing your date's eyebrows! 


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