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     Volume 4 Issue 34 | February 18, 2005 |

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Straight Talk

Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
How much
did your
Valentine's Day
Cost You?


Talk about Hype! I mean, in the last few weeks, Valentine's Day seems to have dominated every sphere of day to day life, at least in the U.K. The whole country seems to have been gripped by Valentine's day-Mania. Every time we switched the television or radio on, or walked into any shop be it departmental store or supermarket we would be bombarded by a whole array of ideas for celebrating Valentine's Day with our spouses, partners, boyfriend/girlfriend, or "that special someone". If we weren't being told that a box of handmade chocolates or a bouquet of red roses would be the ideal present, then we were being brainwashed into booking a candlelit dinner at some exclusive restaurant (actually any restaurant, come to think of it, I'm surprised McDonalds didn't come up with a Mac Valentine burger!). And of course for those who really wanted to splash out, how about a romantic weekend for two in Paris or Rome? How can we forget about the crass saying about diamonds being a girl's best friend? The extent of the commercialism is really quite staggering. This not to say that I am anti Valentine's Day, on the contrary I am all in favour of the idea that one should take any opportunity one can to make our loved ones feel special. Come on who wouldn't feel good about being made a fuss over? I am no exception.

But where did this whole rose giving, "I love you" tradition come from? Despite there being different versions of where Valentine's Day originated from, one version that I found interesting was that in Ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honour Juno, Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Feast of "Lupercalia" which was a feast to a heathen God started the next day. During these times boys and girls were separated. However, the young people had a custom that began on the eve of the Festival of Lupercalia. The girl's names were written on pieces of paper and placed into jars. Each boy then drew a girl's name from the jar and the two were partners all through the Festival. After being paired, the young couple would often continue to see each other throughout the year and on occasion even fell in love and got married. Ahh, how sweet. But enter the villain, Emperor Claudius II of Rome, also known as Claudius the Cruel was finding it difficult to recruit men as soldiers. He was under the impression that the men did not want to leave their sweethearts and thus decided to cancel all engagements and marriages throughout Rome. However, St. Valentine, a priest of Rome at the time, married couples in secret. He was eventually caught, arrested and condemned. He was beaten to death and beheaded on February 14th, around the year 270. Pastors and priests of the early Christian church did away with the pagan custom of Lupercalia by replacing the names of the girls with the names of saints. They chose St. Valentine's Day as the day of celebration for the new feast. And as with all things, this has evolved into the current day tradition we are used to of giving gifts and sending cards professing our love to those who we consider special.

I have to confess that these days Valentine's Day seems to have taken on gargantuan proportions and people make incredibly overblown gestures. And in some ways it seems to detract from the underlying principle itself. Rather than finding simple ways of expressing our feelings, we seem to be running from pillar to post searching for novel ideas and elaborate gifts to show the extent of our love. We have moved on from the ideology of "it's the thought that counts" to the concept of "how much did your thought cost". I was joking with my husband that when we were in University it used to be quite a thrill to receive just Valentines cards even if the cards always seemed to be sent by "anonymous"! Sadly he claims never to have sent me any cards anonymous or otherwise for Valentines Day while we were in University. Now he tells me I guess I will never know who sent me those cards!! What is funny is that people ask you what you did on Valentine's Day and if you come out with a "stayed in with the family" or "had dinner with friends", you get sympathetic looks as if to say "oh you poor thing"!! And gentlemen, if you haven't hired the entire restaurant all to yourself, filled it with roses and had someone playing the violin discreetly in the background then you are a total failure as a husband! One can learn so much from watching Hollywood and Bollywood films.

It's all very well to use Valentine's Day as an excuse to express ones feelings but we really shouldn't forget that there are 364 days remaining in the year that can be just as special.


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