Alternatively known as ‘Singles Awareness Day’
The upcoming “day for lovers”, St. Valentine’s Day, is probably one of the most divisive non-religious celebrations in the world. Some people love it, and some people can’t stand it. The tradition of giving love notes or cards to indicate your affection for your beloved has developed into an all-out extravaganza in the retail market, and in many shops, the heart-themed decorations go up as soon as the Christmas and new year ones come down. This is a time for lovers to proclaim their feelings, forgetful partners to be berated, cynics to grumble, and singletons to feel more single. And, of course, an extremely busy time for restaurants, florists, and greeting card sellers.
There were so many Christian martyrs called Valentine that, until 1969, the Catholic church recognised eleven different Valentine’s Days. Until this time, February 14 was just one of many days that recognised not one, but up to three Saint Valentines, and these days it is rare for anyone to celebrate the feastday in Valentine’s honour.
As one story goes, Valentine was persecuted for being a Christian, and just before his execution by the Roman Emperor, was said to have left his beloved a note that ended with ‘From your Valentine’. Despite this, Valentine was not associated with romantic love until much later. It wasn’t until Chaucer’s time, in the 14th century, that giving valentines on the 14th of February even came about. He gave mention to a Volantynys day in his Parlement of Foules (1382), and it is believed that this led to the first instance of the modern tradition.
These days, according to the American Greeting Card Association, approximately one billion greeting cards are sent around the world every Valentine’s Day.
I sit fairly well on the cynical side of the fence when it comes to this ‘holiday’ (I think you should be able to tell someone you love them any day of the year), so these were interesting pieces of trivia to uncover. I guess all traditions have to start from somewhere, but it’s fascinating to see how far-reaching popular literature can be sometimes. And even though I don’t really enjoy the concept of the celebration, I like that people are still sending handwritten missives, even if it’s only once or twice a year.
Happy Valentine’s Day*!
*Note: It is not called ‘Valentime’s Day’, as far too many people think it is. Or ‘Velintines Day’, as this cake decorator thought.
Photo courtesy of Cake Wrecks.