Saint Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest
retail days in the calendar. In 2006, the average American
spent around US$100 on his or her significant other, totaling $13.70 billion. Men typically spend about twice as much as
women (in 2006 $135.67 and $68.64 respectively), mostly on
cards, chocolates, flowers, and dinner at a swish restaurant.
Approximately 180 million cards are exchanged industry-wide a
year (excluding packaged kids’ valentines for classroom
exchanges), making Valentine’s Day the second largest
holiday for giving greeting cards, according to Hallmark.
The history of the tradition of dedicating the middle of
February to love is complicated. The ancient Greeks dedicated
that time to the rather passionate marriage of their prime
gods, Zeus and Hera. In ancient Rome, on February 15, young
nobles celebrated the Lupercalia which was regarded as a happy
festival of purification and fertility with wild sensual
dances and participants running through the streets naked
striking passers-by. Apparently noble women would get in their
way on purpose, because they believed that it would help with
childbirth and cure barrenness.
This style of celebration proved a little too rowdy for the
Christian emperors and at the end of the fifth century Pope
Gelasius abolished the Lupercalia and replaced it with a
festival to honour Valentine the patron saint of Lovers. Pope
Galasius wisely adopted the old date for a more sedate version
of a love-celebration - thus facilitating its acceptance among
He declared 14 February to be the feast of Saint Valentine.
However which Saint Valentine the Pope meant to honour is not
clear. Historically it is believed to be Valentine, bishop of
Terni in Italy of 197 AD. He was killed during Emperor
Aurelian’s persecutions of Christians. It is believed by
some historians that he could be one and the same as Valentine
of Rome, a priest and doctor who treated the poor for free.
This Valentine was martyred around 269 AD for helping
imprisoned Christians. While in prison he converted his jailer
by restoring sight to the jailer’s daughter.
But as popular masses have a mind of their own and do not
follow orders well, they chose their own Saint Valentine.
During the middle ages, Valentinius of Alexandria, the ancient
Egyptian city (c. 100-153) was the the most popular. He was
destined for papacy, but his Gnostic preaching, and his
emphasis on love in the bridal chamber, ruined his chances.
Albiet his preachings made him an attractive candidate for a
romantic Valentine’s Day Saint.
The romantic Valentine tradition really took off in the 14th
century, when courtly love was all the rage at the royal
courts and it has proved immensely popular ever since.
It is interesting to note that the old Roman Catholic Calendar
of Saints lists 11 Saint Valentine’s Days, but in 1969 all
of these were scrapped as historically insufficient. So when
you are looking at your credit card statements in March
pondering how your balance jumped so high, just take a moment
to thank your lucky stars that there are not 11 Saint
This February, a famous landmark with a
romantic history could provide the perfect location for a
Valentines Day break. The Loire Valley in France fits the bill
perfectly and you will not have to remortgage your home to pay
your your romantic getaway.
It is said that "The Loire Valley is a Queen and the King
loved her". The Loire Valley conjures up imagines of
fairytale chateaux with turrets, topiary and tapestries and
fine wines accompanying great food. To visit the Chateaux of
the Loire is to take a romantic step back in time to past
centuries of French aristocratic life. The winding Loire River
cuts through the land of castles deep in France’s heart. No
other stretch of Loire River can boast so many royal
residences, with over 120 fairytale castles and mansions
lining the river bordered by vineyards.
Royalty and nobility built chateaux in this valley during the
French Renaissance, and an era of pomp reigned until Henri IV
moved his court to Paris. The Loire is blessed with
attractions, from medieval, Renaissance, and classical
chateaux to Romanesque and Gothic churches to treasures like
the Apocalypse Tapestries.
The best way to enjoy the Loire Valley especially for
Valentine’s Day is to not just visit historic chateaux but
to stay in a chateau and to experience the grandeur yourself.
You will not be disappointed for the cost of a little more
than a boring old hotel room you can have a palatial suite in
a renaissance castle with a canopied bed fit for a king. There
are many chateau in the Loire Valley now available for lodging
ranging from huge more pricey chateau hotels with Michelin
starred restaurants to smaller intimate homely chateaux which
are run as upmarket bed and breakfasts where you may be one of
only six parties staying at the chateau. For the cost of two
dozen long-stemmed red roses, a box of chocolates and a fancy
dinner at an expensive restaurant in England or America, you
could stay in an amazing chateau in the Loire Valley for three
nights and feel like royalty. What is more in February you
will avoid all the tourist rush at the historic chateaux and
you can snuggle up with your love in front of a roaring fire.
Corina Clemence runs romantic Chateau du
Guerinet, near Blois
a luxury chateau for up to 15 people perfect for a
Valentine’s Day getaway. Rent a castle in France http://www.loirechateau.com
rent a French chateau
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