Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Valentines Day – Past and Present

Just 3 days to go until the most romantic day of the year! As a matchmaker I thought it might be interesting and fun to look back at the history of this foundation of our Romantic traditions.

Valentines day is named after St Valentine…but there were actually a few who went by this name. The first was Valentine of Terni, a Bishop who was martyred during the reign of Emperor Aurelian in AD 197. The second and more revered was Valentine of Rome, who was also martyred in AD 269. I feel somewhat more connected to him, having visited Santa Maria in Cosmedia in Rome where his skull is kept, adorned by a flower.

I don’t know about you, but so far it seems like a huge leap from martyrdom to the traditions related to love and romance of today’s Valentines Day.

So here is the chronology, as I see it. Valentine of Rome was a Priest, dedicated to his work, providing support and comfort to early Christians by providing holy sacraments to them, including marriage. At that time, most Roman soldiers were prohibited from marriage, as it might distract their devotion to war. So Valentine of Rome would cut hearts out of parchment, and give them to his followers as a sign of love.

The evening before his execution, Valentine wrote the first Valentine Card…from himself, to the daughter of his Jailor. She had been blind, but had regained her sight, ostensibly as a result of prayers and hope.

But there was nothing tremendously romantic for many hundreds of years, until in far away England in 1382, a medieval Poet named Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the following in his book, Parlement of Foules:
“For this was seynt Volantynys day Whan euery biyrd comyth there to chese his make”. (“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate). Chaucer wrote this to honour the 1st anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. And as a footnote, here’s a fact today’s parents will cringe at - they were ultimately married at only 15 years of age!

But why February 14th? Well, as most things from history, it may trace to a mix of old traditions and nature. The Ancient Romans celebrated a right of fertility each year between February 13-15. And separately, in Chaucer’s England, Feb 14 was a prime season for Birds to mate. Throw all of this together, and what we have is a the most romantic of days, named after a martyred Saint who began the practice of cutting out hearts from early versions of paper. A romantic poem celebrating mating season and a royal engagement, the Roman God of Love, Cupid, and 650 years of social and commercial embellishment…and there you have it. Valentines Day 2013.

But for most of us, the bigger question looking ahead is what to make of Valentines Day?

As a matchmaker, I can weigh in with some sage advice.

If you are in a relationship, or married:
  • ·      Remember it!
  • ·      Plan something fun and romantic.
  • ·      Take the time to enjoy the day with the one you love.
  • ·      Women do love flowers…and a special dinner.
  • ·      And Men seem to be very happy with a card and a kiss like you mean it!

And, if you are single…don’t despair! Yes, this may seem like one of those awful days that you just need to survive. Restaurants filled with happy couples, as you shuffle off to the Fitness Club. But, remember, love could be right around the next corner for you. So take the time to have a look. Say hello to an attractive stranger in your coffee shop.  And just maybe Saint Valentine, or even Cupid may be watching. And if that doesn’t work, give me a call. Matchmakers can be just as good as Cupid…plus we take care of all the details and logistics…even Cupid doesn’t do that!

Happy Valentines!