Valentines day is closing in on us and we think it is time to reflect on what this holiday means for us. It's origins are veiled in mystery but most sources seem to suggest that it all began with the Romans somehow. In my last blog post I suggest that the holiday Lupercalia is the predecessor of Valentines. Or did it all begin with the catholic martyr saint Valentine? Possibly it is a mixture of both. The story tells us that Valentine was a priest in Rome who disagreed with the emperor Claudius II's decree that outlawed marriage for young men (because he wanted them as soldiers instead). Valentine continued to perform marriages and was sentenced to death for this. Another story suggests that Valentines sent the first greeting himself to a young woman he has fallen in love with while imprisoned. He signed it "from your Valentine", creating a phrase still used today.
In a sense Valentines is a lot like Christmas. The date of the 14th February is thought by some to be because this is the time that the martyr Valentine died (the same way the 24th December is the night Jesus was born). Others claim that Valentines day is the middle of February to coincide with the original Roman Lupercalia celebrations (in the same way that Christmas coincides with the original yule tide celebrations). Furthermore, both have become major commercial Hallmark holidays (although this term may soon have to change to a Moonpig holiday).
The later days of the Roman empire, when Lupercalia was still celebrated, the story goes that all the young women would put their name in a big urn. The bachelors of Rome would then pick a name thus pairing up with and potentially marrying the woman. This was of course outlawed by the Catholics, but luckily we in modern times have brought this proud tradition back (with a little help from Internet Technology). We call it: match.com, heartsonlinedating.com, eharmony.co.uk, countrysidelove.co.uk or the Danish equivalent: farmerdating.dk.
The sending of Valentines cards actually began with the exchange of letters, poems and small tokens of affection in the Middle Ages. By the end of the 18th century printing technology gave access to the pre-printed mass produced cards we know today. Esther Howland was one of the first people to begin the mass production of Valentines cards in the US in the 1850s. These soon became popular, probably part due to the fact that it now became possible to stop by the service station, grab a card, scribble your name on it and voila - a no-hassle "will you be my valentine" to keep the missus of your back for another year.
However, if you ever thought that Valentines was only for the romantic at heart you are sadly mistaken. Beginning in the late Victorian era the term "vinegar valentine" was meant to suggest a valentines greeting that was anything but. These cards were very popular in the early 20th century and were often given to a spinster, floozy, dude or scholar with a non-flattering caricature and insulting poem. This type of card has since been replaced by the Anti-Valentines card. A card that is cynical or sarcastic towards Valentines and plays in with Antivalentinism. This is a term coined for whose who wish not to celebrate Valentines either from an anti-consumerism point of view or because they do not believe in enforced romance. The last group are also known to celebrate SAD (Singles Awareness Day or Singles Appreciation Day) on or around the 14th February.