Sunday, February 13, 2011

To All My Valentine's

I miss being a history teacher – so I thought I’d do a bit of history today. I also miss being an English teacher so I thought I’d combine some history with a story. I miss being a rational human being but there is bugger all I can do about that whilst living in this strange land! …but this blog might explain some more of the madness to you!

Once upon a time various Christian martyrs called Valentine preformed various heroic acts (not sure what acts but they probably endured some sort of torture for their Christian beliefs – worse than the torture inflicted on the good Christian folk of North Carolina of sitting through a 2 hour sermon every Sunday and giving loads of money to the church for the privilege) At least two of the Valentines are honoured on 14th February, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. There may be a third – from Africa. There are other St Valentines on other days!  There was nothing romantic about any of them so I think some stuff was ‘embroidered’ to justify the day as we know it now!
Here’s the embroidery:
One of the Valentines was a priest who refused to follow the Roman Emperor Claudius’s new law that young men remain single (must have been the Valentine of Rome then! Nothing gets passed me- although I don’t know where Terni is!) Claudius believed married men did not make for good soldiers (this may be the whole theory of men who aren’t having sex are more aggressive. Silly Claudius - single men get it – married men don’t!). The priest Valentine secretly performed marriage ceremonies. When Claudius found out about this, he had him arrested and thrown in jail. He offered Valentine a deal – become a Roman pagan or die. Seems like a no brainer to me! Not to Valentine who tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Claudius had him executed! Go Claudius! Before his execution, Valentine is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. I wonder if ‘healing’ is a euphemism! Otherwise it’s still nothing to do with romance!
Chaucer talked of Saint Valentine’s Day being when birds choose their mates …but he was talking the feathered kind and it was seasonal rather than romantic and it was a different Saint Valentine – Valentine of Genoa – celebrated on 2nd May:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
Still nothing to do with romance. People have since misused Chaucer’s references to reinforce the other Valentine on 14th February! Shakespeare played his part too and somehow the idea of Valentine being a bit of a Romantic stuck. Cards from the love struck to the impervious began in the late 18th century. The idea is you send a card to one carefully selected individual to whom you declare your love. The Brits sent a few cards in Victorian times and with the advent of cheap postal services cards could be sent anonymously. This meant that the lovely sentimental love verses changed to rather more racy rhymes! (feel free to post any you know on the blog). One Brit sent a card to an American whose dad happened to own a large stationary store in the 1840’s. The Americans added a bit to the priest story that has no historical basis whatsoever (like the first bit did?) but ensures a Romantic connection. American Greetings (a card company) have added to the adventures of Valentine (the Roman one – the priest bloke – pay attention) and claim that on the evening before Valentine was executed, he wrote a  "valentine" card to the girl he’d ‘healed’! I wonder if it said ‘Yeah I know I promised it wouldn’t be a one night stand but…’
Valentines Day was supersized. Now it is big business The Brits send around 23 million cards (population of UK is around 61 million). According to my research the Americans (population 312 million) send around 1 billion!  I couldn’t work out why there were boxes of Valentines cards in stores like you get for Christmas cards. I was thinking there were some pretty desperate people out there if they felt they needed to send out 20 cards. I don't think there are many Mormons in the area! I found out why when I received an email from my 5 year old son’s teacher reminding me of his Valentine obligations. They couldn’t email me to tell me when my children would be released from a ‘lock down’ after a bank robbery in the area but they sent me this:
Just a reminder we will be sharing our Valentines on Monday.  Please be aware we have egg and peanut allergies in the room, if attaching candy to your valentines.  Below is a list of student names in case you lost the list
(She forgot to mention the small boy with the 'small British boy' allergy!) I wouldn’t be adverse to my son having a little sweetheart but he isn’t allowed ONE! I was informed that all the kids take in candy and cards – not for one carefully selected valentine, that isn’t allowed. It has to be to the whole class. All or nothing! Everyone has to feel loved! You know my philosophy – kids should learn and deal with rejection, failure and whatever else real life throws at them as they grow up. How they gonna feel when they leave school and get NO cards cos they are ugly and mean? They might have been less mean if they had been made to reflect on the absence of Valentines from a young age! Approximately 190 million cards are sent as ‘proper’ Valentines in the USA, the rest are sent by kids with teachers receiving the most Valentine cards. So my children’s induction into Valentines Day state side shows, that just like the Saint Valentines that that the day is named after, it has nothing to do with Romance!


  1. They're all stark raving bonkers, but we truly love them all.

  2. Another illusion shattered but you have got your humour back.AS you say crazy, everything is blown out of proportion.

  3. Another candy fest for the kids tomorrow - while I might be rather more disappointed! All my cards are probably lost in the post!!!
    I was hoping someone would take me up on my invite for dirty little valentine ditties! (but please mother - dont embarrass me!!!)
    Sean - are you admitting to loving the Americans or the Valentines?!

  4. Sorry love , i am disapointed that i do'nt know any !!!