Love is celebrated all over the world on St. Valentine’s Day, 14th February. It is a day of romance, roses, chocolates and unforgettable moments. This year will be a little different for many of us as we will celebrate at home in lockdown, rather than splurging on a fabulous meal in our favourite restaurant!
We have preordered fillet steak for four, from our fabulous local butcher via our wonderful village pub-turned-shop (Carpenters Arms). The grown-ups will wash down with bubbles, and the boys’ bubbles will come in the form of Fanta Tropical for a treat! Hopefully, we will all dress up… if we can remember where our smart clothes are!!
It will be different, but I think this year more than any other we need to celebrate love, and how much those we love mean to us – even if we can’t see each other yet!
Some lucky people live in places where one day a year isn’t considered enough to celebrate that wonderful thing called love! Here in Wales, for example, we celebrate twice!
I have been exploring some of the origins of these traditions. More than ever, it has made me miss being able to travel this year and experience celebrations in different places and cultures. But as they say “All you need is Love!”.
I would love to hear if you have planned any innovative ways to celebrate this special but unique year!
Valentine’s Day dates back to the third century in Rome, when a priest, Valentine was sentenced for continuing to celebrate marriages between young lovers. Emperor Claudius had banned marriages between young people as he believed that single young men with fewer ties were less inclined to sentimentality and therefore made better soldiers. Valentine opposed the decree and started celebrating marriages between young lovers – hence he became the patron saint of love. On 14th February 270AD, Claudius became aware of Valentine’s disobedience and sentenced home to death.
These days, Valentine’s Day is an ever increasingly commercialised celebration. In addition to a greetings card, chocolates or red roses, retailers provide a wide variety of gifts for all budgets. Cards are also no longer limited to lovers. They can be given to anyone you love and may be addressed to parents, children, siblings and grandparents. Margery Brews sent the earliest known Valentines message in English to John Paston in 1477. She described him as ‘my right well beloved Valentine’.
Initially, Valentine’s messages were a simple declaration of love handwritten on a pretty piece of paper. By the 1840s the sending of valentines cards became extremely popular, and cards were increasingly available commercially. It was considered bad luck to sign the card with a name, so traditionally, cards are signed with just an ‘x’, or a kiss.
In Wales, love is celebrated on 25th January, Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day).
Princess Dwynwen, daughter of King Brychan Brycheiniog, lived in the fourth century. She fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but her father had already arranged her marriage to a Prince. Maelon was extremely upset that they could not be together and the distraught Dwynwen fled to the woods. She prayed and asked God to help her. An angel came to her and gave her a potion to help her forget her love. It turned Maelon into a block of ice. God then granted Princess Dwynwen three wishes. Firstly, she wished that her love be thawed, secondly for God to come to the aid of all those truly in love. Lastly, she wished that she would never marry. She became a nun and founded a convent on Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey.
A love spoon is a traditional gift in Wales, given to show love. They are carved from a single piece of wood, with each element carrying a meaning. Love spoons may be incredibly intricate, or simple, traditional or more modern. They have been given as signs of affection since at least 17th Century. They can also be exchanged to mark celebrations such as births, engagements and marriages. Love spoons can be made to order in Wales so the symbols can be selected to give unique, possibly hidden, meaning to the gift.
In Spain, Valentine’s Day is called “El Día de San Valentín”.
In certain regions of Spain, love (el amor) and friendship (la amistad) are celebrated on other days too.
In Valencia, San Dionís day, patron saint of Valencia, is celebrated on 9th October. Traditionally ‘mocaorá’ — beautiful marzipan sweets — wrapped in a handkerchief, are given by the man to the woman on this day.
‘Mocaorá’ or ‘mocadorà’ date back to the beginning of the 18th century. After the War of Succession, the Decretos de Nueva Planta prohibited Valencians from continuing to celebrate Jaume I’s entry to València on the 9th of October. This had been celebrated for centuries.
Firecrackers and fireworks used to be launched in València prior to the decree. Valencian confectioners started to make sweets in the shape of the banned bangers. The sweets were named after the most popular firecrackers “piulets” and “tronadors”.
To celebrate the fertility of Valencian fields and orchards, fruits and vegetables were also made from marzipan. The marzipan vegetables also remember those given by the Moors to Jaume I’s wife, Doña Violante of Hungary.
On 23rd April, love and friendship are also celebrated in some regions on the patron saint, St George’s Day. In Cataluña, for example, ‘El Día de Sant Jordi’ is celebrated. Traditionally men present their beloved with a rose and ladies give a book. On this day in 1995, UNESCO created World Book Day to commemorate the anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare’s death. The gifts that are exchanged today may be given and received by friends or family, and children may receive either a rose or book from their families. Approximately 6 million roses and 1.5 million are gifted in Cataluña on this day. According to figures from the Ayuntamiento de Barcelona (Town Hall), one in every three books sold is bought to celebrate this day! In Barcelona, the dragon can be seen on the roof of Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, the scales represented by coloured roof tiles. Numerous other architectural features of the building allude to the legend of Sant Jordi and the dragon.
In the Catholic Church, Saint George’s Day celebrates Saint George, a Roman soldier from Cappadocia martyred for following Christ and going against Roman theology.
Legend tells the tale of a ferocious dragon which terrified the population of Montblanc (Tarragona). They were forced to offer human sacrifices to calm his fury. They created a random draw to decide who would be the next victim, and one day the unfortunate name chosen was the princess. When she approached the dragon, a knight put himself between them and pierced the dragon with his sword, from the blood sprouted a rose bush covered in red roses. San Jordi cut a flower and gave it to the rescued princess.
Other than the location, this is similar to the legend of George and the dragon that we celebrate on St George’s Day in England! The red rose is also the national flower, seen on our white rugby shirts!
Finally, I wanted to share some of my favourite quotes about love, to give you inspiration for your Valentine’s card!
“Il n’y a qu’un bonheur dans la vie, c’est d’aimer et d’être aimé.”
There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.
— George Sand
Aimer, ce n’est pas se regarder l’un l’autre, c’est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.
Love doesn’t mean gazing at each other, but looking, together, in the same direction..
— Antoine de St-Exupéry
“Puedes ser solamente una persona para el mundo, pero para una persona tú eres el mundo.”
You can only be one person for the world, but for one person you are the world.
— Gabriel García Márquez
“Te quiero no por quien eres, sino por quien soy cuando estoy contigo.”
I love you not for who you are, but for who I am when I am with you.
— Gabriel García Márquez
“El alma que hablar puede con los ojos, también puede besar con la mirada.”
The soul that can speak through the eyes, can also kiss with a gaze.
— Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
To love is nothing. To be loved is something. But to love and be loved, that’s everything.”
— Themis Tolis
“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”— A. A. Milne
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”— Charles Schulz
“Love is like a rose. When pressed between two lifetimes, it will last forever.”
“Friends are the roses of life… pick them carefully and avoid the thorns!”
CAT Davis Translation 2021 ©