День Святого Валентина (на английском языке) для учеников 9-11 классов

St Valentine's Day

Customes and Traditions

St Valentine's Day is neither a national holiday nor especially religious, despite the fact that it is named in honor of two early Christian martyrs named Valentine. Still, it is hard to imagine the American holiday calendar without the heartfelt expressions of love exchanged on that day between sweethearts, good friends, acquaintances, and even spouses of many years. Whatever the appropriate sentiment and regardless of reciprocation, people take the time and trouble (and card, flower, perfume, and candy merchants help them!) to send a message to those people in the focus of their attention. Robert Burns sang his beloved "My Luve is like a red, red rose, " and to this day red roses are appropriate for that one special love. However, yellow roses are also popular on that day as a sign of friendship, and forget-me-nots always make sense.

Flowers or anonymous messages from someone shy or tender-hearted may be signed simply "from a secret admirer," in the relative certainty that the person receiving them can easily guess who the sender is. This allows for articulation of feelings which would probably otherwise go unexpressed (or simply unheard) in a culture which rather garishly flaunts its lack of sexual inhibitions, is well known for its direct, no-frills approach to courtship, but which is actually, generally-speaking, quite reserved and in need of venues for expressing true affection.

Whatever the reasons, Americans of all ages love to send and receive valentines and to hear and sing the thousands of new and traditional love songs which flood television and radio programs on that day. Songs like "You are my Sunshine," "My Love, " "I'll Have to say I Love You in a Song ", which we have included here and countless others boom out to reach the ears of a public which has tacitly agreed to be romantic, at least for a day.

In the days leading up to Valentine's Day, school children typically make valentines for their teachers and classmates and put them in a large decorated mailbox. The joyous chatter of children engaged in creating handmade valentines out of colored paper, bits of ribbon, glitter, yarn, stickers, and lace is a combination of the happy hands involved in an attractive craft activity and the anticipation of giving and receiving these personalized tokens which beautifully reflect the time, care, and thought which went into them. When the big day arrives, the teacher opens the box and distributes the valentines into eager hands. As the students excitedly read their messages, refreshments are prepared, and then they have a small party.

Honestly speaking, with so much excitement and emotion in the air, few Americans have taken the time to find out much about the origins of St Valentine's Day. The celebration dates back to the ancient Roman festival called "Lupercalia " which took place on February 14th or 15th in honor of Juno, the Roman Goddess of women, and Pan, the god of nature. On that day a curious courting ritual was played out in which young men randomly drew from an urn love messages written and decorated by young women. Thus, "matched by fate," the two would be partners at the upcoming festival. This echoes the old folk tradition that the birds choose their mates on this day as well.

But merely imitating what the birds do could hardly justify the continuation and spread of this Roman custom throughout Christian Europe in the Middle Ages. It needed the sanction of the church and authority of some martyred saint. And two likely candidates were soon found. The first Valentine was a Christian priest who was imprisoned and executed in the third century for spreading the teachings of Christ. On February 14, he was beheaded, but not before he managed to heal the jailer's blind daughter and write her a farewell letter which he signed "From Your Valentine." The second Valentine was an Italian bishop who lived at about the same time and was imprisoned for secretly marrying couples, contrary to the laws of the Roman emperor. Legend has it that he was burned at the stake. The lives and deeds of these two men certainly fit in well with the theme needed to keep February 14th in the holiday calendar. And by some strange paradox their deaths have helped to keep many a troubadour from going hungry throughout the ages.

The valentine lottery still existed in 17th century England, according to one French writer who described to his countrymen how at one party he attended guests of both sexes drew lots for partners. From there it spread to the early American colonies, where it gained ever increasing popularity, particularly in the 1800s, fueled by such sentimental tunes as "Down in the Valley".

Among all the red hearts, birds, love letters, candies, chocolates and kisses which comprise valentine symbolism and realia, Cupid or Eros is the unquestioned favorite in personifying the spirit of the day. According to Greek (and later Roman) tradition, Cupid was the eternally child-like son of Venus, the goddess of love. Although he remained a baby, he could fly and was equipped with a tiny bow and countless golden arrows forged for him by the god of fire Vulcan. His mother gave the arrows special power, and that is why if Cupid shot you with his arrow, you would fall in love with the first person you met.

It's funny how some things never change. The idea of star-crossed lovers, those brought together by fate or divine intervention such as Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Marc Antony and Cleopatra, has been exalted in literature and art of all-ages. Inspired by these names, many teenagers and adults today send in messages to major newspapers throughout the country which, for a small fee, print anyone's valentine message in a special section of the February 14th issue, whether it be addressed to a wished for sweetheart, secret lover, or to a friend and companion of many years.


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