Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Valentine's Day

These days Valentine’s Day, on the 14 February, is unfortunately viewed as a commercial occurrence, where we are expected to make someone feel good/proclaim our love by sending an anonymous card, poem, flowers or large consignment of chocolates. This results in the fact that people in the western world often ignore Valentine’s Day because of its commerciality or due to a lack of motivation or perhaps even embarrassment to showing our true feelings.

There are differing stories as to how the day actually came about, but some say the day came about because of St. Valentine, a Roman, who was martyred because he refused to give up Christianity. It is said that during his time in jail he miraculously restored the sight of the jailor’s daughter. On the day of his execution he left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, signing it ‘from your Valentine’.

Another story says it stems from the action of the bishop, Valentine who married young soldiers and their ladies in secret. This was something that had been banned by the Roman Emperor Claudius II, who had forbidden marriage between potential soldiers and their lovers as he felt that the young men didn’t make good soldiers once they had married. Because of his actions Valentine was captured, refused to convert to the way of the Roman Gods, and was executed. Valentine became the patron saint of an annual festival, where young Romans offered women they admired, and wished to court, handwritten greetings of affection each year on February 14. The cards took on the name of ‘Valentine’s cards’.

One of the earliest Valentine’s cards sent on record was in 1415, by Charles Duke of Orleans, to his wife whilst he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. This card can be seen in the British Museum

So go on, having learnt a little history of the romance behind Valentine’s Day, be a devil: send a card or splash out on one of those enormous heart-shaped chintzy boxes of chocolates and make someone happy. After all what have you got to loose? This is the one time in the year where if you get it wrong you can remain anonymous!

First published in the Connections  #18, 2008

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