Whatever the origins, St. Valentine’s Day is now a day for sweethearts. It is the day that you show your friend or loved one that you care about them.
Traditionally, Valentine’s Day, or more correctly Saint Valentine’s Day was a celebration of courtly love, made popular by the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and other influential authors who romanticized the High Middle Ages. Although there is not a specific Saint Valentine, it is believed the day is named after several Christian Martyrs who have shared that name.
In modern times it has mutated and become a day when people can openly tell those that they care about of their affection, without risk of rebuke or ridicule from their peers. It is a day of love and caring.
Valentine’s Day Cards
The most notable tradition associated with Valentine’s Day is that of giving cards. Where giving a Valentine’s Day card differs from giving one for a birthday or for Christmas, is that traditionally a Valentine’s Day card is sent anonymously, leaving the receiver to try and guess who sent it. This of course leaves the whole situation wide open to any number of pranks, and this is part of the fun. More and more, people are giving Valentine’s Day cards openly, with no attempt at anonymity, and this is just one of the ways in which Valentine’s Day is slowly evolving. In 2010 the UK public spent more than 500 million UK pounds on Valentine’s Day cards, and the postal service takes on thousands of temporary staff to deal with the additional workload during the run up to Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day Gifts
Valentine’s Day gifts are extremely popular in modern times, especially since the original anonymity of giving has been eroded over time. Valentine’s Day gifts are usually quite small and would include items such as:
Valentine’s Day Poetry
One of the less exercised traditions of Valentine's Day in the modern UK, is that of publishing anonymous poetry in the national press.
This used to be a very popular thing to do on Valentine's Day, but the advent of TV and Radio have made this something of an oddity in modern times.
People still do this, but if you were to ask any of the younger generations to name the top Valentine’s Day traditions, they will probably not include this one. A tradition that is slowly dying due to new media and the excessive cost of space in the tabloids.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Just like Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, the phrase Happy Valentine’s Day is now generally accepted for use everywhere, between friends, family and associates. This once again demonstrates that Valentine’s Day is slowly drifting away from its basic tradition and underlying theme to become a more all-encompassing day for caring.
Show Somebody you Care
One of the ways in which Valentine’s Day has changed over the last century, lays in the fact it is no longer purely about romantic affairs. Instead, Valentine’s Day has become a further reaching phenomenon, where a person can give a gift, or a card, simply as a sign of affection and not as a declaration of love. It is not uncommon for friends to exchange Valentine’s Day gifts, although this is almost entirely something done by younger females.
A Time to Repair Relationships
As well as a time for caring, Valentine’s Day is also a time for repairing. Many couples, especially those who are having problems in their relationship, use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to do something romantic.
This might be a weekend away together, or simply a romantic candle lit meal for two. In these situations Valentine’s Day is seen as a day of truce, when conflicts can be set aside and love rekindled.
Although most of the UK celebrates Valentine’s Day in the same way, there are a couple of notable regional variations. In Norfolk, a local person will dress up as a figure known as “Jack Valentine”, who will then spend some time visiting the back door of many homes, knocking and leaving sweets and chocolates for the children of the house. In Wales, many people celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 25th of January, and this day is known locally as St Dwynwen's Day.
Valentine’s Day Superstitions
In times past, there were several notable superstitions involving Valentine's Day. For example, it was believed that the first man whom an unmarried woman laid her eyes upon on Valentine’s Day would be the man she would eventually marry.
In a similar light, it was believed that if a woman saw a sparrow on Valentine's Day morning that she would marry a poor man but would be very happy. If she saw a robin, it meant she was going to marry a sailor and if she saw a goldfinch, it meant she was going to marry a wealthy man.
Children and Valentine’s Day
Modern Valentine’s Day includes children in the festivities, and many UK schools now treat Valentine’s Day as a special day for children. Young children are encouraged to sing Valentine’s Day songs, and receive small gifts of sweets and chocolates as a reward.
Valentine’s Day as an Excuse to Party
Over the last ten years, Valentine’s Day has evolved from a simple day when people were able to show their affection for others, into a full on commercial affair. This is nowhere more evident than in the sheer number of special Valentine’s Day events that major clubs and venues will organize. As Valentine’s Day is ultimately about romantic relationships, these parties will often take an adult theme, encouraging revellers to dress up and let their hair down. The most common themes are:
- Vicars and Nuns
- Devils and Angels
- School Girls and School Boys
Valentine’s Day and Merchandising
There can be no doubt that Valentine’s Day is big business. Just as at Christmas where shops fill with Christmas related merchandise, the same thing happens although on a much smaller scale over the run up to Valentine's Day.