I know Valentine’s Day has been and gone, but I have only now got the time to update my blog, mainly due to my husband having been home for the past 6 day, so feel free to blame him for the late update.
I usually lose out on Valentine’s Day, not because my husband doesn’t think to buy me flowers and chocolates; no, because my mother-in-law decided to give birth to my husband on the day of love – Valentine’s Day. Clearly ones birthday is more important than Valentine’s Day, so Birthday cards, presents, cake and candles are the order of the day. I must admit that my husband does try very hard to make sure I have a lovely day, but the focus is on him.
Eight years ago even his birthday was pushed to one side, as some very dear friends of ours got married on this day and our daughter was their flower girl. A very apt day to get married on, given the history behind St. Valentine’s Day.
So,why do we celebrate this day in the way we do with love hearts, chocolates, roses and cards? Some research reveals that there a two, or possibly even three, different thoughts as to how this all came about.
The better known legend began in Rome (as most stories of Saints seem to, and in fact, both of the legends do begin in Rome) with the then Emperor Claudius II (known as Claudius the Cruel – the clue is in the name!). Claudius was having a hard time finding soldiers to join his military leagues (probably something to do with the fact that his campaigns were plentiful, bloody and highly unpopular). He reasoned that this was due to the fact that Roman men did not want to leave their loved ones behind; so being the reasonable chappy he was, he forbade all marriages and engagements in Rome. Defying this order was a priest who secretly continued to perform marriages for young lovers. When the priest’s actions were discovered, he was sentenced to be beaten to death and have his head cut off. Whilst in prison, awaiting his sentence, it is believed that the priest fell in love with a young girl, who may have been his jailor’s daughter, who visited him during his confinement. Before his death on the 14th February, it is said that he wrote a letter to his love, which he signed “From your Valentine”. The priest, yes you have guessed it, was later known as Saint Valentine.
The other legend, also beginning in Rome, is entwined with the Roman holiday to honor Juno, the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. Juno was also known as the Goddess of women and marriage. Her day of honor fell on the 14th February, followed the next day by the Feast of Lupercalia, at which men would sacrifice a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the slain animals. Young women would actually line up to be hit in such a fashion, as it was believed that this would make the women fertile. In those days, the lives of young boys and girls were strictly separated, but on the eve of the festival of Lupercalia, the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would then draw a girl’s name from the jar and would then be partners for the duration of the festival.
In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius decided that the pagan feast of Lupercalia had to be expelled and therefore combined the two and made February 14th St. Valentine’s Day, essentially putting “clothes” onto the festival, but not really changing the debauchery that it was synonymous with.
During Shakespeare’s and Chaucer’s time this day became more romanticized thanks to their works, and throughout Britain and Europe hand-made paper cards became the fashion for this special day. In the 19th century the industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards and in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass production of Valentine’s cards, and so the day was never the same again. These days, this day of love is big business; according to market research firm IBIS World, sales last year reached $17.6 billion, with this years sales expected to total around $18.6 billion – a far cry from Saints and their good deeds or indeed the matchmaking of ancient Rome.
These days big glitzy presents and a dinner for two is the standard so it seems. Due to us celebrating my husband’s birthday rather than the rose and jewellery filled day, we try not to go out for dinner, as I just cannot stand all this “slushy” love stuff (yes I know, I am a woman and should really want all that, but I like to be different). You end up having to book a table months in advance and pay over the odds just because it is Valentine’s Day, so we usually go for a nice lunch or a day out. This year we decided to check out the Valentine’s Day celebrations at Calgary Zoo. The zoo gives each of their animals special treats in form of enrichments and roses are placed in almost all enclosures. The day started off with the gorillas getting some mysterious looking boxes, all decorated in the Valentine fashion, and containing some cool goodies (literally, as there were 10 or so big blocks of ice containing seeds and all kinds of other good stuff). It was fun watching the gorillas climb into the cardboard boxes to see what was hidden deep inside.
It was great fun watching the animals inspect their gifts, some with more trepidation than others, and as for our special dinner: we had sandwiches, strawberries and chocolates, followed by coffee in the warmth of the zoo’s cafe surrounded by families with young and usually screaming children.
It’s not what you eat (although it helps), but it’s who you share your meal with, and as my Valentine card to my husband stated: “I am not interested in a nice and normal relationship – I like ours better”! With that goes the fact that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in the traditional fashion, the fact that I usually get my flowers, chocolates and card the day before, the fact that we go to the zoo instead of a candle-lit dinner and follow it with a nice home-cooked meal in celebration of my long-suffering husband’s birthday.
Here is to the unconventional celebration of this day of love!