St Valentine’s Day
Is Valentine’s Day a Tradition or a Commercial Farce?
As February has St Valentine’s Day, I thought I would focus this month’s blog on whether it is a tradition or a commercial farce. Valentine’s Day – the Saint is dropped so often – is celebrated on February 14. It is day symbolised by giving gifts to our loved one/s. People use this day to celebrate love. Sure, it is now a commercialised, yet the day is about giving to our loved one/s. Let’s explore how the tradition of gift-giving to our loved one/s originated.
Saint Valentine – Who was he?
There is not one but many St Valentines. As a Christian liturgical celebration it is a day to celebrate a number of Valentines who were martyred in the Early Church . In Eastern Orthodox Churches St Valentine’s Day is celebrated on July 6 and 30 – two days (different St Valentine’s though)!
Valentine’s Day Association with Love
Geoffrey Chaucer (an old dude from the 1300s who was famous writer) is credited with first associating St Valentine’s Day with romance in the book Parlement of Foules (1382; Assemblies of Birds in today’s language) . Chaucer wrote about birds choosing their mate on this day. Although it has been pointed out that February 14 in England is an unlikely time for birds to begin mating rituals – it is still winter and cold.
Another story about Valentine’s Day as a day of love’s celebration dates to the French royal court of Charles VI. Apparently, King Charlie held an over-the-top banquet, with entertainment including love songs and poetry competitions. It was reported that Ladies-in-Attendance ruled on lovers’ disputes .
Roses are Red……
We all know the poem:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
The honey is sweet
And so are you .
There is more to this poem, I discovered when researching this blog.
The rose is red, the violet’s blue,
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And fortune said it shou’d be you.
The poem is called Garland and was written by Gammer Gurton in 1784 as a Valentine’s Day poem.
Gift Giving: A Valentine
Paper Valentines were originally a handwritten note or card, often with lace and ribbon given by young gentlemen to their lover. By 1800s Valentines were being mass-produced and called “mechanical Valentines”.
It seems men have always had problems with romance, as The Young Man’s Valentine Writer was published in 1797 to assist men who had difficulty with words.
St Valentine’s Day it appears has a long history of not being a religious celebration yet a day of celebrating love and courtship.
So Why Cupid?
No idea! I could not find any reputable references to a historical connection. Cupid was the Roman god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. The Greek equivalent was Eros. A shot by Cupid’s arrow would result in the recipient being filled with uncontrollable desire.
Cupid is associated with St Valentine’s Day because of his representation of love and affection. This appears to be a modern association.
A Valentine on Valentine’s Day
A Valentine is the gift given on Valentine’s Day. The idea of giving Valentines was well truly in place in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The commercialisation started not long after. Valentine’s Day is day to celebrate love and give a gift to our loved one/s.
The act of gift-giving is symbolic in many ways. Gifts are visual symbols of love. In many marriage ceremonies rings are exchanged as a symbol of love without end. In giving a gift we are giving a material aspect of ourselves. The thought which went into the selection of the gift represents the emotional value (symbol) of love. Blessed are those who give for they do love.
St. Valentine’s Day is no so much a liturgical celebration anymore, but a day celebrating love. It has a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages in European-based society. The commercialisation of Valentine’s Day also appears to be traditional, with it occurring in the late 1700s/early 1800s. The idea of giving a gift to a loved one Valentine’s Day is a symbolic celebration of love.
So what are you giving this Valentine’s Day?
Dr Christopher Fox is a Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist at Sex Life Therapy in Melbourne. He has clinics in East Melbourne and Frankston.
 Ansga 1986, Chaucer and the Cult of Saint valentine, pp. 46-58
 Oruch, Jack B., “St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February”, Speculum, 56 (1981): 534–65.
 Ansgar, 1986, Chapter 8, The Hibermantino of the Mating Season, pp. 131–138
 Gammer Gurton’s Garland (London, 1784) in I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd ed., 1997), p. 375.
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