February 14 th
In the wild fields of Norfolk
I heard people say,
‘Send a gift to a good child
On Valentine’s Day’.
‘Send a gift to a good child
Knock hard – then away,
And seek out last Spring’s love
Or a love for today,
And ask her to visit and stay
To tea without lights on Saint
When all the fun of Christmas and New Year is over, there’s a feeling of anti-climax. The rest of January is dreary and cold. But before long the empty shops seem to come to life once again with displays of attractive and brightly coloured ‘I love you’ Valentine cards.
St. Valentine was a priest who lived in Rome and died for his faith in A.D. 170. His feast happens to fall on February 14 th – the traditional day for lovers. But this is mere coincidence. He was not therefore the true patron saint of lovers.
There was in early times a strong belief that on this day birds choose their mates. To some extent this might explain why love – birds seem to be such popular motifs on Valentine cards. A fourteenth century poet wrote: ‘On Valentine’s Day all the birds of the air in couples do join’. And Shakespeare carried on the tradition when Theseus says in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’:
St. Valentine is past:
Begin these wood-birds
but to couple now?’’
But antiquarians maintain that St. Valentine’s Day celebrations are a continuation of a Roman festival of Pan and Juno.
There used to be a custom in England on St. Valentine’s Day, mentioned by Chaucer, Shakespeare and Pepys: the names of young, unmarried men and girls were mixed up and drawn out by chance. The person of the opposite sex whose name came out after yours was your chosen ‘Valentine’ for the year.
Just over a century ago it became fashionable to send pretty lace-edged cards. Earlier, ludicrous and sometimes vulgar cartoons were sent to friends and strangers of this day.
In our own time, too, the Valentine tradition has undergone a sort of revival in Britain. There seems to be limit to the variety of cards on sale for this celebration. They are happy or sad, romantic or humorous, serious or ridiculous. The card manufacturers, realising they’re on to a good thing, cater for all tastes – including the vulgar. You can pay anything from 10p to L 10, depending on the depth of your love and the depth of your pocket! If you really want to get rid of some money you can always use the St.Valentine’s Day Greetings Telegram – a service put on specially for February 14 th by the Post Office, for the really love-sick.
Of all the Valentine cards on the market the humorous seem to be the most popular, but some of them are so cruel you would have to be quite heartless to send them, even to your worst enemy. Anonymity is, of course, part of the thrill of sending Valentine cards – you must not say who you are. The person receiving it must be left to wonder. You can send cards to anyone you like, or, for that matter, even people you don’t like. There are cards specially printed to My Wife, My Husband, Mother, Father, Sweetheart, and, would you believe it, Grandmother and Grandfather. At least it is good to know that in this troubled world love is still living and spreading a little happiness, especially in dreary February.