When love is in the air

by Paul Campbell

A candle-lit dinner, be it in a fine restaurant or home-cooked in a holiday bach at the beach, a bottle of wine perhaps, of course, a bunch of flowers — the best way to celebrate St Valentine’s Day on February 14 is a personal choice.

It probably comes down to budget in the end, and of course, there will be many individuals and couples that will likely take little notice of the date anyway.

Moreover, in researching the event, this writer was fascinated by how others see us Kiwis when ‘love is in the air’.

According to an American website on the subject: “As in the other parts of the world, New Zealand also celebrates to honour the great Saint Valentine.

New Zealand youngsters and adults celebrate the festival with much vigour and joy. It is one of the festivals, which are popular in the whole country almost celebrated in an American style. The cities of New Zealand will be wearing the look of romance. Youngsters wander the streets hand in hand with smiles on faces.”

That glowing description might be a little hard to swallow! Nevertheless, where and how did the day originate?

Saint Valentine was a priest who conducted marriage ceremonies in third-century Rome.

The emperor at the time was Claudius II, who decided that his men would do better on the battlefields of the time if they didn’t have romantic stars in their eyes, and were single. So he banned marriage for young men, and that of course upset Valentine, which led to a disagreement between them.

Valentine continued with his marriage ceremonies. When Claudius heard this, it was a case of a stab in the back and Valentine was executed.

It’s not certain why the day is observed in February. The most popular suggestion is that this was the month in which Saint Valentine was martyred, although some theorists believe that it was first celebrated in February to overshadow a pagan festival. The Lupercalia celebrations involved priests, a sacred cave and animal sacrifices. That was supposed to make the women of the city more fertile the year after. The growth of Christianity is thought to have love to overcome the practice, and they decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day to overshadow the pagan event.

Whatever the true origin, the celebration has been around for some 17 centuries!