Today, 14th February, is Valentine’s Day, the traditional day to commemorate romance and the enigma of love.
What are the origins of Valentine’s Day? Why is it celebrated in February? The origins of the day have become clouded with the passage of time. Legend has it that its source can be traced to a Roman Catholic priest Valentine of Rome who was martyred in the Third century for marrying soldiers and ministering to Christians persecuted during that time of the Roman Empire. Emperor Claudius II, who considered that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, had outlawed the act of marriage for young men. Valentine’s acts of defiance made him a romantic figure and it is believed in some quarters that his death or burial took place in February.
It was at the end of the fifth century that the 14th of February was declared Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius. However, it was not until the Middle Ages that the day became associated with love and romance, and the exchange of greetings. In England and France, the 14th of February was considered the date for the commencement of the birds’ mating season, which added to the thought that the middle of February, was an appropriate day for romance.
By the 17th century the celebration of Valentine’s Day was very popular, and by the mid-eighteenth century, the exchange of tokens and hand written notes was common among all social classes in England. Improvements in printing and the advent of cheaper postage in the next century led to an explosion in the sending of greeting cards.
Today, Valentine’s Day is a great global cultural and commercial event, as the young and the old celebrate the riddle and mystery of love. It’s a time of extravagance and lavish spending, as no corners are cut by those in love, in their efforts to express the depths of their unconditional love. Although every nation appears to have developed its own unique way of celebrating the day, some traditions seem to have extended to the four corners of the earth.
Millions of red roses are purchased and delivered by couriers around the globe, as florists ponder why there is only one Valentine’s Day in every year. Over-priced cards, filled with verses composed by the most romantic scribes of the past centuries are further endorsed with promises of endless love and marriage proposals, accompanied by boxes of exquisite Swiss or Belgian chocolates, and expensive gifts of fine jewellery. Restaurants offering fine dining are booked to capacity weeks in advance, as the young at heart and those whose love has withstood the tests of time and temptation venture to great lengths to celebrate the day. Some men will strive to conjure up the most romantic of scenarios to go down on one knee and stutter the inevitable question, ‘Will you marry me?’
The sharing of feelings of warmth are not restricted to the ‘special someones’. School teachers are smothered by cards from the younger children who expend great efforts to design and colour their own cards whilst expressing their appreciation for her guidance. Close friends and family are not forgotten either, and are also recipients of specially designed cards, chocolates and token gifts.
It is a day of boundless energy and best wishes. It is a day of universal outpouring of hope and goodwill.
Here in Guyana, as we celebrate the day, we should pause and reflect on this decisive period in our history. Our bittersweet relationship with sugar is drawing to a close, just as we have been blessed with the discovery of large deposits of oil and gas.
Will the newly discovered sweet crude be Guyana’s Valentine?