St Valentine’s Day or now often ‘Valentine’s’ was originally a Western Christian Liturgical Day, known as the Feast of St Valentine – celebrating the life of St Valentine or even more than one of them, as there is certainly some confusion as to whom the original Saint Valentinus actually was. It is is now a cultural and commercial celebration within many religions across the world but is not actually a public holiday anywhere. So that is a brief history of St Valentine’s Day – where it all began, many centuries ago.
The modern day St Valentine’s Day practices originated in the United Kingdom around the 17th Century and by the 19th Century paper and lace cards were being manufactured in reasonably large quantities in factories and around 60,000 cards were being exchanged as long ago as the 1830’s. With the postal revolution of 1840 and the reduction in postal costs, through the introduction of the world famous ‘penny black’ postage stamp, participation escalated to around 400,000 cards being exchanged and the commercialisation of St Valentine’s Day had probably begun.
Today roughly half of the UK’s population exchanges cards, which is around 32,500,000 in total, so big business indeed, but even this is dwarfed by the enthusiasm with which Valentine’s Day is embraced in the USA – with over 190,000,000 cards being exchanged. A far cry from what the man believed by many to be the original St Valentine had intended or ever envisaged. He was a priest in Rome at the height of the Roman Empire when he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and ministering to Christians, who were persecuted within the that culture.
Legend has it that during his time in jail St Valentine, healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and wrote to her how prior to his execution, signing his farewell later as ‘Your Valentine’ which is said to be the forerunner of the modern tradition that we observe today.
Today St Valentine’s Day is unashamedly commercial and is maybe measured by many by the size or quality of the card, the cost of the gift or how many stars the restaurant has, where you might be taken for your romantic meal, which is a long way from what St Valentine actually intended. For some it may even be a barometer as to the health of their relationship and it can for some, in the same way as Christmas brings things to a head, be the catalyst for change or even ending the relationship, as these days many people just don’t want to ‘mend and make do’ or settle for what they perceive to be second best.
So did you get your card and gift this year? If not you know what to do to find love………..!