V-day – Myth, legend and chocolate

You know what I’m talking about. The overhyped Hallmark marketing campaign that is the Valentines day takeover of the world. Smug coupled-up partners, disappointed single-pringles and a few couples who shouldn’t really be together, but they’re roughing it out. Until the 15th. I have to say that I rather like Valentines Day. Not the crass over-hyped consumerism, but the
idea that there is a day in the year just to celebrate someone loved. (Yes, I’m a soppy git – if you’ve read this blog for awhile – thank you – you’ll probably know that this may never change…)

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Science allegedly says ‘Hormones throughout the human body create the feeling of love which the human mind and its emotional world never accepts as a truth, as it thinks that there can be no meaning in a life if there is no love and passion’. Is it true? It certainly sounds pretty scientific. I’m lucky enough to have my Mr Kiwi (my grouchy, pub-loving blonde – our story here) puts up with me (and my affair with this crazy blog), my Macaron loving ways and need for exploration. Hurrah for hormones!

The best known myth of St Valentine’s Day (the name obviously shortened to save on card ink) is the martyrdom of the great Saint Valentine on February 14th. One of the most famous legends runs as follows: ‘In Third Century Rome, Emperor Claudius decided to keep single men from marriage as he thought the single young men without wives or families make the best soldiers (the modern equivalent of football playes being separated from their WAGs the day before a game I guess) and decided to outlaw marriage for young men. The priest Valentine thought of this new law as an injustice and continued to secretly perform marriages for young lovers, but when Valentine’s actions were discovered, the emperor ordered him to be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help the Christians to escape from cruel Roman prisons where Christians are tortured and massacred.

How romantic.

Nowadays, there’s a rush to have incredibly expensive red roses delivered, an expensively perfect and thoughtful card scribbled with sweet nothings and a box of overpriced chocolates. I thought I’d find a few alternative Valentines traditions in the UK as food for thought…

  • It is traditionally believed in Sussex that birds choose their mate on 14th February, the beginning of spring and thus call it ‘Birds’ Wedding Day’. On that day, if a robin flies overhead the woman will get married to a sailor; spotting a goldfinch would mean marrying a rich man, while if she saw a sparrow she would be destined to marry a poor man but will be happy.
  • Another tradition was that the names of suitors of an unmarried girl was written on paper and then wrapped in clay. The clay pieces were them immersed in water and the one the rose first would have the name of the future husband.
  • In Wales, a unique and beautiful custom on Valentine’s Day was to gift wooden spoons with custom design carved on them, such as hearts, keyholes and keys. The keys and keyholes were meant to represent the phrase “You unlock my heart!”
  • In the Middle Ages, names were drawn from bowls to know who their valentines were. The name was tagged on their sleeves for the next whole week

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….and continental Europe;

  • Valentine’s Day Cards are said to have originated in France before they materialized in any other country. A Frenchman, named Charles, Duke of Orleans has written the first written Valentine’s Day Cards. The Duke who was captured as war prisoner at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 is said to have written a Valentine message to his wife while imprisonment in the Tower of London.
  • Finnish Valentine’s Day is considered as the ’friendship day’. The bond of friendship is celebrated with sheer enthusiasm on this day.
  • One German story goes, there was a peasant revolt led by Duke Welf against King Conrad III. The King had pulled together a great army which overthrew the Duke’s fighters. As a result, peasants found themselves under siege. Lady Elizabeth, the wife of the Duke requested the King to let her and other wives leave the castle with whatever they could carry on their backs. The King agreed but got surprised to see them carry their husbands on their back on that Valentine’s Day.
  • In Denmark, young couples become cousins of Shakespeare on Valentine’s Day. Yes, they write beautiful romantic poems on the day. They write some special poems for their beloved, pointing out the character traits of their sweethearts in a romantic and humorous way. These love poems are known as ‘Gaekkebrev.’
  • (Somewhat ironically) food plays the major part in the Valentine’s celebration in Hungary. Honey sprinkled salmon, Fried vegetables and pasta, and Ginger marinated filet of duck breast served with pear-chardonnay sauce are some of the traditional recipes for the celebration of Valentine Day in Hungary.

Happy Valentines Day!!

Ps. If you’re buying flowers, try surprising the recipient with a bouquet of Victorian meanings – Helioptrope (devoted affection), Lisianthus (appreciation), Cactus (Ardent Love), Gladiolous (you pierce my heart) – or Clove (I have loved you and you have not known it).

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