Oh love
Stories of the North and past at Valentine Time

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 11/00) - Coming soon at a museum near you -- the day of love.

This week's Amazing Family Sundays, entitled Valentine Time, celebrates this annual love day international style.

"It's a special presentation on the history of Valentine's Day," explains Erica Tesar, who will be hosting the event.

But don't just expect a history of this romantic holiday; Tesar plans on sharing some tidbits that will change the way you think of expressing your love to your sweetheart.

How about a wooden spoon? It's practical and thoughtful, and Tesar will tell you why. Sweets, book tokens, flowers, cheese and lovebirds have also been given as tokens of love.

"And I have some Northern stories ... the valentine that arrived too late or was it? What happened was, in the days when it was the (mail) system that went along the Mackenzie River, a valentine was held for a whole year. And it went to the wrong person. It's kind of a neat story."

Tesar will also tell the story of a scrimshaw valentine that someone's great- great-aunt received from the North.

Before people could easily read and write, valentines were made from materials like wood and stone.

In the case of the scrimshaw, a piece of whalebone was engraved and sent to a sweetheart. Busk scrimshaw was also popular. A busk is the front stay of a corset -- the lady in question could wear the love message, engraved on the busk, on her bosom, over her heart...

Tesar collected these stories from fellow teachers when she first arrived in Yellowknife 30 years ago.

"Valentine was not the big thing in England (where Tesar is from) that it is here. I had no idea about this. At the first teachers' conference, we got chatting about this. Some of these stories came from sitting around chatting."

She saved some of these stories and will share them with everyone on Sunday.

"We'll be making valentine cards, fans, love knot cards. We'll be looking at the meaning of 'heart on your sleeve,' and acrostic cards and pin prick cards."

Tesar encourages everyone to come and bring a favourite valentine story or treasure.

And while you're at it, bring along any materials that might be used to create love tokens -- bits of material, lace, flat stones.

Valentine Time takes place at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Sunday, between 2-4 p.m.