If I remember right, I received my first ever Valentine’s day (V’s day) card from my mom’s bestest friend in the US… what can I say, I was a popular baby ;-). Apart from the cards from this aunt, we kids of the 80s never celebrated V’s day. It was when I was in high school that the day of hearts, roses and chocolates came back into the limelight. And even then it was not because someone came up to me with a red rose… it was care of other kids who exchanged gifts celebrating what can be categorized as puppy love. Did you detect a sign of remorse there? That’s because there may be a smidgen of it somewhere… coming to think of it, I never fancied anyone enough to give them a gift either, so all’s well.
From there, I went straight into an all-girls college and that was that for my next few V’s days. But, my friends and I made the most of it by exchanging roses and gifts, and celebrating amongst ourselves. Who needed boys, right? From the looks of it, I guess we were celebrating Galentine’s day (a day for gal pals) even before it was an actual thing! We were trend setters or what!!??
Eventually, Mr. P entered the scene and for our first V’s day, we went out, with permission from my parents and all… we were such good kids (mostly). The first few years of our marriage, we would diligently buy each other gifts and what not but now, we have either grown too old for it or it just doesn’t seem necessary to have one day a year to celebrate love when it can be done everyday (I’d prefer to believe it is the latter). Also, once I learned about the history of St. Valentine’s Day, the whole idea of it lost its charm. Let’s take a look into the origins (or like someone would say, oranges) of the modern day festivities linked to February 14th.
Have You Heard of St. Valentine?
There are several tales about the origin of St. valentine’s Day and none of them have anything to do with its modern day connotations of cupid and love. The day is named after two or three martyred priests by the same name. The first Valentinus is said to have died in Africa, in 270 AD and it is said that two others with the same name were executed on February 14th in the 3rd century AD by Emperor Claudius of Rome. One tale states that one of the priests fell in love with a girl he cured and wrote to her before his execution on February 14th, signing the note “from your Valentine”.
Another story tracks the origins to a Roman festival of fertility called Lupercalia. I am not going into details, but you can read more here. From the martyrdom of priests to a pagan festival, Valentine’s Day was nothing like what we know it today. Anyway, it would take a creative soul to bring in a love connection, don’t you think? That’s where Geoffery Chaucer’s, “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make” (For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, When every bird cometh there to choose his mate) from Parlement of Foules comes into the picture. Our favorite bard also mentions the day, when Ophelia calls herself Hamlet’s Valentine. Soon after, people began exchanging love notes and poems on February 14th, giving rise to the traditions we are familiar with. Then there were Hallmark greeting cards, chocolates, teddy bears and more. Even today, in the US, kids from preschool through elementary grades exchange gifts and goodie bags with all their classmates and teachers.
Even though V’s in its modern sense started off as a day to express love, today it is just a commercial venture. Most stores have these pink and red displays from late December onward, as if to remind the forgetful folks about a day that is almost 2 months away. I believe that we should celebrate love everyday, just like we should celebrate mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends etc. daily and not on one designated day every year.
Here’s to a love-filled V’s day and every day thereafter!!!
P.S. Interesting V’s day anecdotes:
- In early 19th century France, the government had to ban V’s day celebrations because women rejected by potential valentines would take to the streets and burn effigies, causing a lot of hullabaloo.
- Just like Trick or Treating, kids in England would go ‘valentining’, to collect candy. This often became a rowdy affair and eventually people moved on to less riotous activities like exchanging cards and gifts.