Valentine’s Day: history, traditions, facts & figures

By Marina Kosareva: Hello and Happy each Valentine’s Day! If you are single I know you feel like switching me off right about now but don’t be in a rush. This is not going to be a lovey-dovey programme. I’m going to take a look at this romantic holiday and investigate how it all began and why we are all forced to feel guilty bad about it one way or another. If you are one of those people who can’t wait for this day to come you’re probably wondering what guilt has to do with it, let me explain. So if you are single, all this day does is point out the fact that you have no one special in your life, right? That’s the way it works. If you happen to like someone you might expect them to give you something as a sign that they are into you. So you spend your day wondering and in the end you might not get anything. That doesn't necessarily mean that guy or girl doesn’t like you. It could mean that they don’t like this holiday. And this brings me to the reason why even those who do have someone special in their life, sometimes feel guilty about Valentine’s Day as well. There are so many men and women out there who hate the fact that they have to show and prove their affection on one particular day of the year. They don’t like the fact that it’s becoming increasingly commercialized and that they’re being forced to buy all these little chocolates and teddy bears in the shape of heart. You know what I’m talking about. All the stores fill their shelves in red merchandise with “I love you” blasting in every corner. Don’t worry if you’re one of the romantic types, I’m not here to destroy your Valentine’s Day. I just want to give you both sides here. So imagine a girl who’s had no one on Valentine’s Day for a year or two or more, and the all of a sudden she happens to be with someone on this day. But the guy she’s with is not into the holiday. So again she gets nothing. That makes her feel bad and the guy feel bad as well. This actually happened to me before. For about three years I always managed to find myself single on this holiday. Then one year, I thought finally I’m not going to feel like an outcast on Valentine’s Day. Well, guess what? My boyfriend hated Valentine’s Day. So when he came home from work that evening like nothing ever happened, I was looking at him like, come on what are we doing, where are we going. You know expecting that he had planned a romantic evening somewhere. You know what I got? A tempurpedic pillow pillow that we had discussed about buying for a long time and he just happened to pass by a store and get it. It didn't even have anything to do with Valentine’s Day. Needless to say it was the most unromantic gift I had ever received on this day. Then when I told him about how it was Valentine’s Day and couples normally do this and that he told me how felt about it and then felt guilty that I was disappointed. So all of a sudden this day that’s supposed to be all about romance and happiness became very sad. And by the way, if it wasn’t Valentine’s Day we would’ve had a great evening. Isn’t that ironic? In any case I decided to forget what this day means and he decided to organize romantic events for this occasion because it meant something to me. So now he plans and buys me stuff and I don’t. I’m just kidding of course. Oh and another point I want to make here is about expectations. All the women I know have their hopes up for what they’re going to get or what they will do on this day. If by any chance they don’t get what they expected somewhere deep inside they are disappointed. No isn’t that just terrible? I don’t know about you but I think this day is just made for disaster. OK don’t turn off the radio, I’m done ranting about it. Now I will actually talk about how the whole Valentine’s Day thing started. I actually never researched it so I was very curious to find out myself. I want to know who’s responsible for this romance madness and how it became an international extravaganza with so many products and events dedicated to it. So let’s begin our exploration. Saint Valentine’s day is named after early Christian martyrs. We don’t know who exactly because there were many men named Valentine back in those days. The day was established by Pope Gelasius I in 500 AD. Back then, people honored two Valentines and those were the Valentine of Rome and the Valentine of Terni. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia there was another martyr named Valentine but not much is known about him. And of course then the day had nothing to do with love or romance. It was just a name day. In 1969 when the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints was revised, Saint Valentine’s Day was removed and transferred to local and national calendars. That was because the Church didn’t have enough information about the person it was named after. The only place that still celebrates this day in the traditional sense is Balzan which is in Malta. And that’s because they claim to have found relics of the saint. Traditionalist Catholics are also said to follow in their lead. Now, if we are talking about legends then there are two versions of the story. One says that Saint Valentine was being persecuted for being a Christian. Before his execution he performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. According to American Greetings there was a twist to that legend. They claim that before Valentine was executed, he wrote the first "valentine" card and that was to the girl he healed. He addressed her as his beloved and signed "from your Valentine". Another twist to this legend claims Valentine was a priest who disagreed with a law ordering young men to remain single and performed secret marriage ceremonies for them. If we look at time periods in terms of months, in the ancient Athenian calendar, mid-January to mid-February was dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera and was known as gamelion. In Ancient Rome, February 13th through the 15th was considered a period of fertility known as Lupercalia.If we talk about facts here, the first association of St. Valentine’s Day with romance was made by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. He wrote a poem in honor of the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. It said, "For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate." Unfortunately, in terms of romance and birds mating this didn’t make sense because experts say that the middle of February is an unlikely months for birds to be mating in England. In any case, in 1797 a British publisher created The Young Man’s Valentine Writer which had verses for those incapable of writing romantic poems to their loved ones. They became extremely popular and the rest of course is history. Hallmark claims that more than 140 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged each year and more than half of those are purchased in the six days leading up to the holiday. Now that’s Hallmark research but in general about a billion Valentine's Day cards are said to be exchanged in the US each year. It’s also one the biggest seasonal card-sending occasions of the year, next to Christmas. Women are said to purchase 85% of all the cards which is hardly surprising. I haven’t met many men who like to talk or write about their emotions at length. And if you do a get a card sometimes it’s empty which kind of defeats the purpose, but anyway. Apparently most of these cards are given to teachers, then children, following that we have mothers, then wives and finally romantic partners and pets. Yes even pets get to feel special on Valentine’s Day. I think that’s ridiculous. At least give them a special food or something. You know something they can appreciate. I must say I was surprised to hear that teachers and children get more cards than wives and significant others. Parents actually get 1 out of every 5 cards. Looking at this in a global perspective, over 50 million roses are given for Valentine's Day each year. Now who do you think buys most of the flowers, men or women? This is no srprise really. 73% are bought by men and the rest by women. Men also buy most of the candy. By the way Richard Cadbury was the one who invented the first Valentine’s Day candy box. And that was in the late 1800s. Oh and check this out. Apparently the Italian city of Verona, famous for being the homeland of Romeo and Juliet’s romance, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet every Valentine's Day. I can’t help but wonder who sends these letters. It can’t be small children because they wouldn’t be reading Shakespeare at such a young age. And as far as anyone else goes, why do that? I don’t get it. And that’s our round up of interesting facts about Valentine’s day. I don’t know about you but personally I’ve learned a lot of new things about this holiday. I almost feel like a Valentine’s Day expert now. It’s amazing how it all started so simply and exploded into this super crazy shopping extravaganza. I looked at some of the cards that were made in the mid 1980s and they are so simple, yet it’s clear that a lot of thought went into them. They are super detailed and have embellishments on them. Now our cards are all aimed at creating some sort of an effect. And that’s usually to shock you or make you laugh. I definitely think that there was more meaning in this day before. Here in Russia this holiday is of course celebrated like in most parts of the world. We have events organized at various clubs and bars. The shops are all decked out in ‘Be By Valentine’ type of stuff. As far as other countries go, there are many which celebrate this holiday on different dates and have slightly different names for it but the principle is always the same more or less. There is one place I want to talk about in particular though and that’s because I found something they do quite funny. So apparently in South Korea if you got nothing on the 14th of February or the 14th of March which is another extension of their version of this holiday then you go and eat. Yeap, if you got no presents then you should go to a Chinese restaurant, eat black noodles and mourn your single life. Mourn your single life? That’s a bit harsh don’t you think. Now that’s exactly what I was talking about earlier. All this day does is making people feel guilty all the time. Anyway let’s move on and take a look at countries where Valentine’s Day is being met with a lot of harsh criticism. First we have India. Even though the holiday is becoming extremely popular over there Hindu and Islamic traditionalists call Valentine’s day is becoming increasingly popular but there are people trying to put an end to it. Apparently a political party is calling for it to be banned. Over in Iran, this holiday is seen as anything but representative of Islamic culture. Conservatives have been criticizing it for years. Actually this year the Iranian printing works owners' union banned the printing and distribution of any goods promoting the holiday. That includes cards, teddy bears and everything else along those lines. But we’re not perfect either. In the Belgorod region here in Russia the local government has also banned the holiday. Shops cannot sell special merchandise, venues cannot host events dedicated to the holiday. Officials claim tit promotes temporary affections rather than true love, and therefore contradicts Russia's traditional culture and morals. Source: Voice of RussiaImage: Photobucket

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