We can all agree that we don’t need Valentine’s Day for us express love to one another. We can do that any day. However, Valentine’s Day and the story of St. Valentine is part of our culture. Of course, you don’t need a Hallmark card or a box of Godiva chocolate to show affection, although if you ask anyone, it doesn’t hurt to receive gifts. This year, instead of talking about poems, roses and chocolates, here are the 5 debunked myths that you can entertain your valentine with.
Read also : The origins of Chap Goh Meh
1. It is the celebration of a martyred saint
It is true that Valentine’s Day is a holiday that has a Christian basis, but there is only one problem – nobody knows which saint it is. There are a few different saints named Valentine (3 to be exact) that potentially fit the profile. However, there aren’t sufficient historical records to determine who is who. One popular front-runner is Valentine, a Roman priest who had defied the law of Roman Emperor Claudius II, who made marriage illegal so men would have no reason to not go to war. However, the priest disagreed with Claudius and was secretly marrying young Christian couples until he was caught and subsequently beheaded on 14 February in 269 B.C. Then, in 498 A.D., Pope Gelasius made Valentine a saint and declared the day he was beheaded his feast day.
2. It is a Christian celebration
To answer this, we will have to go back to the question: Who is Saint Valentine? We’ve established that there is no record on which saint the day is named after, but to be honest, it is okay as when the Catholic church wiped the Saint Valentine’s Day feast from its holy calendar in 1969, nobody actually knew what the real story of Saint Valentine was or why he was sainted. As a matter of fact, many Christian historians believe that Pope Gelasius did it to Christianise the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, which was a bloody and strange observance dedicated to fertility and life. So, technically, the day has almost zero religious connotation.
3. Chap Goh Mei is considered Chinese Valentine’s Day
Referring back to Lupercalia, which is a fertility festival, and that harvest deities are generally associated with fertility. Anyway, the celebration revolved around a torchlight procession meant to represent Ceres searching for her daughter. Before the beginning of the festival, it was common for a box to be passed around with the names of all of the young women. The men would each pick a name from this box, and the girl whose name they chose would be paired with them for the celebration of Lupercalia. This becomes a very important link between Valentine’s Day and Chap Goh Mei, which is the final day (15th day) of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
4. Valentine’s Day traditions were inspired by the tragic love story of Charles, Duke of Orléans
It was said that Charles had sent his wife Bonne of Armagnac poems/cards during his 24 years of imprisonment in the Tower of London starting in 1415. Well, his romantic gesture is true and much of his poetry survived to this day and is displayed at the British Library in London. Yet, there’s no confirmation that this is the reason why we send cards or poems on Valentine’s Day. The idea of having a special day for lovers was supposedly first noted in the famous writer Geoffrey Chaucer’s work, The Parliament of Foules, written in the latter part of the 1400s. The practice of sending handwritten notes and small presents seems to have grown over time especially in the US as it becomes customary to exchange anonymous greetings.
5. The modern Valentine’s Day was invented by Hallmark
Contrary to popular beliefs, Hallmark did not invent the custom of sending pre-printed cards for Valentine’s Day. Giving cards was a tradition that had existed in England (especially after the Duke of Orleans started the whole love-letter thing on 14th February) since at least the 1700s and was later popularised in the colonies. Esther A. Howland, also known as the Mother of the Valentine, was the first to mass-produce Valentine’s cards in the US. At some point in the 1840s, Esther received a valentine’s card from a friend in Great Britain and liked the idea so much that she used her father’s printing press to mass-produce beautiful cards of her own.