In amongst the Easter eggs which seem to have arrived in the shops already are a whole range of cards, chocolates, bubbly and flowers reminding us that Valentine’s Day is rushing up on us.
When I was young I wasn’t one of those girls with a string of admirers so getting a card on Valentine’s day was a big deal. So, once I had a long term boyfriend I demanded flowers and general spoiling, even though he was adamant it was a big commercial con to make us part with money. We still disagree about this over 20 years on but suffice to say I did receive a dozen red roses that year!
It got me thinking that I don’t really know the history of Valentines – is it really just a Hallmark card creation (see ‘Grandparents day’!!) or is there more to it?
So, having done some research (read Google) it seems that no one is really sure where it all started. There are some interesting theories though. It could be named after one of a number of St. Valentine’s recognised by the Catholic church – the most romantic story being that when Emperor Claudius in Rome believed soldiers were better fighters if they didn’t marry, presumably so that weren’t distracted, a priest called Valentine defied him and continued to marry young couples in secret. As you can imagine defying Claudius did not end well for Valentine.
A slightly more unsettling suggestion is that it stems from a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia. History tell us that during this festival Roman priests slaughtered goats in a cave, soaked the hide in the blood and then went round the city slapping the women with it as they believed it improved fertility. Later in the day the women all put their names in an urn and the men picked them out and were matched for a year.
Fortunately we have moved on from the ‘slapping with blood soaked hides’ days. Valentine’s Day as we know it became popular in the 17th century (although the oldest valentine still in existence is a poem from way back in 1415) and printed cards became more common than letters from the start of the 20th century. Today more than 25 million Valentine’s cards are sent in the UK each year making it the second biggest card giving occasion of the year (after Christmas). A study showed that even though 48% of people in the UK didn’t even plan on sending a card for Valentine’s, a whopping half a billion pounds is spent on cards and gifts!
I’m choosing to believe in that romantic priest who held clandestine weddings, and in his name continue to send a Valentine’s card to that boyfriend who bought me the roses and has been my husband for over 15 years.
But what about you? Are you a believer that Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate and show our significant others that we love them? Do you take the opportunity to send that anonymous card to someone you have had your eye on? Or do you think it is just an opportunity for shops/restaurants to guilt us into spending more money, when we should be able to show people we love them on any day of the year?
It’s up to you. But… if you are a bit of a romantic at heart and haven’t bought your loved one a card yet check out our ‘love birds’ card. Or if you’re celebrating singledom, why not take the idea and twist it to show others close to you you are thinking of them – friends, relatives – with our ‘with love’ card?