Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentinus - Worthy, Strong and Powerful

I heard on the radio this morning on the way to work that Valentine's Day (14th February) was the commercial invention of a famous card company 'Hallmark'. I knew there was a Saint Valentine, but couldn't make my mind up whether or not the Hallmark story was true. Needless to say, a bit of research debunks that theory.

In fact this day is Saint Valentine's Day. Little is known of Valentinus (means worthy, strong and powerful) who gives his name to this day save to say he is buried in Via Flaminia in Italy, just north of Rome. Indeed just to complicate matters, there could have been several Saint Valentines and they were all Martyred saints of ancient Rome.

The feast day of this anonymous man dates back as far as 496 AD, established by Pope Gelasius the first (remember him - the name trips off the tongue) who included Valentinus among those "... whose names are justly revered among men but whose acts are known only to God." So we don't know what he did nor will we ever know why he became famous.

A woodcut of Saint Valentine appeared in 1493 - the first 'picture' of the man. The connection to romantic love only became popular in Geoffrey Chaucer's day in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries and it wasn't until the late 1700s that hand written cards expressing love for your partner became more popular after the British publication of The Young Man's Valentine Writer which gave a number of examples of romantic verses that people might try.

Since the 19th century, commercial cards have flourished and these days - anything goes in terms of how Valentines day is expressed - red roses, choccies, red plastic baloons, romantic dinners etc etc. Awwwww.

So there you have it - a potted history thanks to various pages on Wikipedia.

As for this fifty something Yorkshireman? Haven't celebrated it for what seems like forever. Why? Who knows - I can remember giving cards to girlfriends in my teens, perhaps I've just grown out of the need to be dictated to by commercial sector and express my feelings on just one day of the year. Still, for hopeless romantics, I hope they enjoy it and have a fabulous day.

*The rose is red, the violet's blue
The honey's sweet, and so are you
Thou are my love and I am thine
I drew thee to my Valentine
The lot was cast and then I drew
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.

Chat soon


*Gammer Gurton's Garland (London, 1784) in I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 375.
** Valentine's Day card courtesy of Wikipedia - origin unknown.


  1. I feel that even Valentine's day has lost it's real meaning as it is slowly being turned into a day where everyone is giving everyone a token of their love instead of it being a day for lovers.
    As you say it's a way for the shops to cashing in on another festival.

    Best wishes, my dear friend

  2. Hi Jarmara
    As always, thanks for the interesting thought; I notice in the news tonight that florists are feeling the effect of the financial squeeze with sales massively down this year. If the commercial sector won't get much profit out of it in the future, I wonder if this is one of the 'festivals' that will slowly disappear into the mists of time?
    Kindest regards as always

  3. It's a shame that it has been overtaken by the commercial sector, but I think people are slowly wising up and turning away from the manufacturers and retailers.My beloved stopped off at Hutton Cranswick and bought me a bag of carrots, so all is not lost yet. x

  4. Hello Elizabeth
    He certainly knows how to treat a girl! Thanks for the comment.

  5. Though my lass and I met on valentines day 25 years ago, ( she knocked on my door to phone for a taxi, and never left...) I fear the rejection of the commercialisation by a couple of churches we once attended has hardened her against it.

    Me? I just remember it as the day we met.

    My view is that as much as I don't need a reminder that I love my missus, and I could do that any day, it is nice to have a day to (if you'll forgive me) Sod the logic, to be reminded :)

  6. Oh, and Mr Fry :)

    I'm half way through his book "Moab is my washpot". It covers his first 20 years.

    Without checking, (can't find my bible at the mo' - eek!) I suspect that refers to, ummm, Psalm 8, where God levels the city of Moab because he's somewhat displeased with it's arrogance toward him.

    If I remember correctly, a 'wash pot' is a bowl where if one enters the temple, remembering that to get to the temple, ones feet became filthy, you washed your feet over. Over not in.

    You don't put your feet in the bowl. You wash your feet from a jug over the bowl, the filthy water falling into it. Then you can enter the Temple.

    So, when God refers to the city of Moab as His Wash pot, he's saying the city is unworthy by their filth to enter His temple, and therefore unworthy of Him.

    So Steven Fry is describing himself and his behaviour in his early years as unworthy to enter the Temple.

    I find that kinda wonderful, in a heartfelt way.

  7. Hi Wheelie
    Great point about valentine's Day and 'love' and a lovely story about your other half '... and never left.' I love it.

    Funny, I've never read about that part of Fry's life, although the reviews are very good. His 'Chronicle' book is excellent. I guess Fry had lots of conflicts, both about his criminality and his sexuality that may have caused him some pain... you'll have to let us know and review the book on your blog.

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