Valentine’s: myth, marriage and medieval poems

Locked in: The padlocks at N Seoul Tower are inspired by the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris. © Getty

Should we treat every day like Valentine’s Day? People have been celebrating romance on February 14th for centuries. Now, billions of pounds are spent on the holiday around the world.

What’s happening

The shops were bursting with roses and chocolates. Approximately one billion cards were exchanged around the world. One survey found that almost two million people were hoping for a marriage proposal in the UK alone. Yep — it was Valentine’s Day on Wednesday, a time to celebrate love and romance.

Find out more

There are a few different legends about St Valentine, a Catholic priest from the third century who inspired the holiday. In one, he secretly wed couples to keep the men from being sent off to war by the Roman emperor Claudius II.

In another, he was beheaded by Claudius II on February 14th, after refusing to renounce his faith. As he awaited his execution, he sent a note to a woman signed “Your Valentine”. This, some say, was the first Valentine’s card.

The day became a celebration of love during the Middle Ages. The first Valentine’s poem is thought to have been sent in 1415, by a duke who was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Now, the day is marked by couples, friends and families around the world.

Is one day of celebrating love enough?

Some say…

We should be nice to our loved ones every day! After all, there are lots of different ways of showing many kinds of love. Perhaps we should follow the example of South Korea, where the 14th is a “love day” every month. It is Valentine’s in February, of course, but the 14th is a day for singles in April, music in September, and movies in November.

Others think…

That sounds far too over the top. It is better to have one day a year which is dedicated to mushy romantic stuff. For the people who enjoy it, the rarity makes it is special. Meanwhile, for the people who do not care about romance, this gets it all out of the way at once, so that we can get back to ordinary life. Why change a habit of centuries?

You Decide

  1. Is Valentine’s Day an important holiday?

Activities

  1. It is time to write a love poem! It can be about any kind of love you want: for a friend, family member, hobby, food or pet. However, it must be about something or someone you love, and it must start with the following two words: “Love is…”

Some People Say...

“Eskimos had 52 names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.”

Margaret Atwood

What do you think?

Word Watch

Wed
In this case, this does not mean getting married to someone else, but performing the marriage ceremony.
Claudius II
Emperor of Rome from 268 to 270. He was known for defeating Gothic invaders. He believed that single men made better soldiers, and so he banned weddings and engagements.
Renounce
Reject.
Middle Ages
The period after the Roman Empire, between the fifth and 15th centuries in Europe.
Duke
A type of leading nobleman.
Rarity
Something that is rare, unusual or uncommon.

Subjects

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