IT’S coming up, flowers, dining, fine wines, chocolates and clinking glasses to say thank you to that special other half and the caring family at the table. It’s a damn good tradition to get into but lamentably it comes just once a year.
Generally everyone knows his Saintly history, but he is just one of 365 days of Saints being celebrated. Of all the various Valentines the most celebrated was the one kept in a Roman dungeon for marrying soldiers and ministering to the Christians, a definite no-no confronting the Roman Empire back then.
He did, in fact, send the first ‘Valentine note’ under unusual circumstances, to his jailer’s ill daughter who he had cured. Just before his execution he penned a special note to her and signed it, ‘Your Valentine.’ Therein started a downhill snowball of love and understanding that crept through the ages from discreet admiration of the fair sex to outright public embellishments.
Saint Valentine was martyred in 269 but added to the calendar of Saints by Pope Galesius in 496. But it was another Valentine martyred in Africa on February 14 in which we arrive at the celebration date. And even that became forgotten until Chaucer grabbed a personage from the past and made him modern and Romantic.
Then followed Shakespeare and Donne with sentimental verse and the fad became a movement in England with more than 400,000 Valentines mailed in 1837. Not too much later a Valentine was sent to a young woman in New England. It might have been shrugged off as a spring prank had not the woman been the daughter of a man that owned a large book store and stationary shop.
He immediately started importing lace and colourful envelopes from old England and the frivolous flirting by mail became almost a stateside national holiday within 10 years. Last year it was estimated that more than 190 million cards were sent in the US not including those done in schools, emails and Facebook, which would easily put the figure beyond a billion!
That venerated date of February 14 is still not a world custom considering many countries still use Lunar calendars and esoteric dates for similar celebrations.
It is a pity that Valentine’s Day couldn’t evolve into a worldwide day of love, kindness and mutual respect. It might help the nations view each other with less belligerent discrimination and more trust.
My suggestion would be to celebrate nationally ‘Cupid’s Day’ on the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th of each month, with two of those dates feminine-denominated so they may lead the charge and scheduling terms.
The world today seems so sterile, plastic, as if carved in stone therefore lacking human embraces and love. Simple kindness might make our living circumstances more tolerable. Even more smiles would help.