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The Origins and Meaning of Valentine’s Day

St. Valentine has not always been associated with romance. Where does Valentine's Day as the Day of Lovers originate, and what meaning does it actually have today?

As soon as the Christmas celebrations are over and done with it seems the shops can’t wait to get their next lot of holiday merchandise on to the shelves. By the beginning of February you can’t pass a store window without being visually assaulted by the masses of red hearts, flowers and romantic sentiments. It appears that Valentine’s Day has translated into yet another commercial holiday sell-out and a capitalistic enterprise for the large corporations. But what are the true origins of this day where one is supposed to express true love in, what is more often than not, some materialistic display of affection?

The origins of Saint Valentine, the patron saint of love, young people and happy marriages, are unclear. In fact it could be an amalgamation of several martyrs dating back to the Roman times. It is certain, however, that one or more Saint Valentines were real people, most likely priests, as tombs have been discovered dedicated to them. In these early times of the saint day there were no romantic connotations as there are today, links were, on the contrary, more along the lines of sacrifice. It wasn’t until many centuries later, in the 14th century in fact, that links with romance were established.

In the year 496 the date of 14th February was affixed as the celebration in honour of St. Valentine.   But it was (although this may be debatable) Chaucer in the late 1300’s who first associated the day in February with romance in his Parlement of Foules. In the following centuries the romantic nature of Valentine’s Day has been well documented in numerous literary works; Shakespeare, of course being one of these literary wordsmiths.

From the verses of Shakespeare came verses printed by publishers to inspire young lovers in the 18th Century. Later on these verses made their way to sentimental greetings cards printed on a mass scale, and often exchanged anonymously. Nowadays, cards are sold in their millions, but it is not only these paper products which are exchanged between lovers, admirers and hopefuls the world over. Red roses, cuddly toys and chocolates are usually the gift of choice, but those feeling more extravagant may err on the side of a meal out or romantic weekend away.

So what gesture will you make this Valentine’s day? How about an all-singing all-dancing e-card, or a chocolatey treat for the one you love? Or do you think that it’s simply a money trap invented to earn the major corporations even more cash? Whatever your opinion, don’t wait until the 14th to express your loveFree Web Content, affection or interest to the person you choose- do it now!

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Helen Fream works as a project manager for Rosetta Translation. Rosetta provides translation services, in particular Japanese translation and Korean translation services. In more general, though, the company provides translation and other language services in and out of all world languages.

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