For men it fills them with panic when they realize at 4pm on February the 13th that tomorrow is the big day and they haven't even gota card. The next step involves a hurried trip down Oxford Street to get their girl the perfect present, or at least something that will not make their girl want to break up with them, a hoover is just out of the question, regardless whether it has turbo power or not.
So when did this mix of emotions and rushing to the shops to get anything better then a toaster start? It can be taken back to Ancient Rome when between the 13th-15th February people celebrated the pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, which was a celebration of love. It is believed that young men would strip naked and use goat or dog skin whips to hit the bottoms of young women in order to improve their fertility, sounds like the Ancient Rome's version of bondage. How whipping a girl would improve her popping a kid out ability I do not know.
In 496 AD Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set the date as the 14th, maybe a football match was on the other days or something or a good episode of Eastenders was on. The pope made the feast day in honour of St Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd Century, this is the man that Valentine's Day is meant to honour, although I doubt anyone has honoured him on this day for about 300 years, jewellery and chocolate are just so much more appealing.
|The wedding party pooper|
He believed that marriage made the men weak, us women may gradually take our man's masculinity away by getting them to do the hoovering, cook a meal and heaven forbid do the ironing once in a while, but it certainly doesn't make them weak.
The Romans weren't too fond on the ban of marriage, but they didn't need to worry because in stepped Valentine with his cupid bow, I don't think he was wearing just a loin cloth though. He saw the upset that the ban caused between couples and when they wanted to marry, Valentine joined them in the sacrament of matrimony, marriage basically. Valentine married many happy couples but eventually Claudius found out about him and chucked him in prison. He refused to agree with the ban on marriage or believe in Roman gods, so the emperor had his head chopped off on the 14th February 270 AD, how very romantic.
But when did the lavish 'I'll spend a months rent' gift giving start? By the 18th century gift giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become common in England. Hand-made cards were decorated with lace and ribbons and featured cupids and hearts, no rude jokes or innunendos in sight.
In 1797 'The Young Man's Valentine Writer' was published, it containted rhymes and messages for men to put in cards to their valentine's, no more awkward message and non-rhyming poems.
This tradition spread to the American colonies and in 1840 cards began to be commercially produced in the U.S. Early cards manufactured in factories were black and white pictures painted by workers. The first cards that were sold were created by Esther Howland in 1847 that were made with real lace, paper lace and ribbons, no hedgehogs kissing or meerkats smooching to be seen. By the end of the 1800's cards began being manufactured by machines and a card company called Norcross became one of the first companies to manufacture Valentine's cards, so we have them to thank for the pop up heart cards and out of tune 'I love youuuu' singing cards.
Children also sent Valentine's along with adults. Store bought cards were expensive, so out came the PVA and sticky tape and men and women exchanged handmade cards, that I'm sure took them at least two hours to make. Have you ever tried to cut the perfect heart out? Total nightmare. Women's cards were very decorative with lace and ribbons. Men's cards were simpler containing a poem, I can't really see a man beautifully sticking lace and ribbon on a card, can you? Poetry was very popular then and love letters often contained long poems.
I have half a heart
And you have the other
Let's make a whole one
By putting them together.
Valentine's day is over-commercialised now with adverts for it starting on the 1st January and every product has a Valentine's twist. What with a set of Valentine's Rubber Ducks, Valentine's toilet paper and Valentine's Lego sets and instructions on how to make hearts, roses and teddy bears holding hearts out of lego. I wouldn't mind those presents actually.
But in the 1900's people organised Valentine's Day parties, where unmarried people could mingle and meet over a sausage roll and a pineapple hedgehog. Rooms were decorated with red paper hearts strung on ribbon or golden cords. Evergreen or southern moss was used as decorations to blend in with the red. There were lots of crepe paper rope in red and white, decorating doorways, pictures and chandeliers. A family friend would dress up like Cupid and games were played. Not those sort of games and no car keys on tables were involved.
Now we don't go so extreme to hold parties or pull the short straw and dress up in a loin cloth with a bow, but the tradition of celebrating your love with your partner is still going strong, either that or crying over a pack of Minstrels or even watching a horror film, whatever takes your fancy.
For future reference if you're single on Valentine's don't use too many Kleenex or spend all day looking like a Panda, you can always buy the Dream Man Arm Pillow to cuddle up to without having to deal with the snoring and duvet hogging and have a few giggles over the Cookie Sutra with your girly friends.
So I hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day whether you are single or not, but remember sending Valentine's cards to yourself from your cat really isn't cool, not that I ever have.
Second Hand Rose