Valentine Day – It’s On The Cards

Some billion cards will be bought this Valentine’s Day across the globe.  Hearts and flowers, chocolates and wine. And woe betide those who forget!

Have you ever wondered at the significance of Valentine’s Day and why February 14th? We at Women Talking did so here’s the lowdown.

It all began, according to learned historians as a pagan fertility festival in ancient Rome.  Apparently the 14thof February was the time for a bit of flagellation, young men stripping off and using goatskin whips on the posteriors of maidens. Who’s to dispute it?

Then along came the first ValentineValentine of Terni a Christian martyred in Rome in the reign of Emperor Aurelian around AD 197.  That too was dated later as February 14th.

Forward to around AD 289 under Emperor Claudius, when Valentine number two, Valentine of Rome, is martyred, in the city.  Said to have converted his jailer to Christianity by restoring his blind daughter’s sight, it was later claimed that Valentine fell in love with the young woman and sent her a note  “From your Valentine”, Again he was supposed to have been executed on February 14th – you might think it was becoming an inauspicious date to be out and about.

Run the calendar forward to around AD 496 when Pope Gelasius is said to have made February 14th the St Valentine’s feast day, claiming the popular pagan festival for the Christians.

After this, we have Chaucer taking up the theme in AD 1382 linking St Valentine’s Day with romance at the engagement of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. “On St. Valentine’s Day when every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.” Hmm February 14th, surely an unlikely time of year for mating birds, but let’s not quibble.

Around AD 1415 Charles, Duke of Orleans, a Frenchman imprisoned in the Tower of London, is said to have written a Valentine’s note to his love. Then by AD 1600 William Shakespeare has Ophelia saying “Tomorrow is St Valentine’s Day” in Hamlet: “and wishing “To be your Valentine.”

By the mid 18th century we are passing love notes like mad before a bright spark starts making cards in lace and paper and the good old postie appears to deliver them anonymously. By the early 19th century, factories are churning them out…

In 1913 Hallmark Cards add the date to Mothers’ Day at the top of their bestseller list. The romance and the profits continue to grow until something like a billion cards get sent worldwide and the only other date to rival February 14th is Christmas.

So there you have it, or perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you subscribe to the “bah humbug!” of the second most popular date for sending a card. And should you have been recently let down in love who can blame you?

If that’s the case, you might send him a nicely parcelled pig’s head like one young woman I knew.  Discovering that her long time boyfriend had been having sex in her bed with a work colleague, she sent this pertinent porker special delivery to his office for Valentine’s Day – now there’s a romantic thought!

Patricia McLoughlin

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