Did you know that, until the fall of Communism, Valentine's Day, as the Western world knows it, wasn't celebrated in Eastern Europe? These days it's observed with gusto.
Walentynki, as it is known in Poland, has been celebrated for hundreds of years in Chełmno, a small town about 30 miles northwest of Łodz along the Ner River, a tributary of the Warta River in today's west-central Poland. It is here the relics of Saint Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, have been preserved in the local parish church.
Dubbed "the lover's city" (miasto zakochanych), couples make a pilgrimage of sorts to the site to pray for a happy marriage. These days, it has become more of a secular holiday with gifts exchanged between lovers -- cards, flowers, perfume, chocolates, jewelry, lingerie, and heart-shaped cookies (ciastka w kształcie serca) for the women, and electronic gadgets, DVDs and colognes for the men. The main square becomes a virtual fairyland when a huge electronic heart is lit to glow in the night. The festivities end with a glorious fireworks display.
Since Chełmno is out of the question this year, make your own fireworks at home. Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji Walentynek! (Happy Valentine's Day!)
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