The History of Valentine's Day 情人节的历史

在每年的二月十四日,全美国和世界的很多地方在恋人之间,都按传统以圣瓦伦丁的名义之下赠送糖果、鲜花、和其他礼物。但是这位圣瓦伦丁却是一位神秘的人物,那么这些传统又是从哪里来的呢?这就需要从古罗马的规矩到英格兰维多利亚时代的习惯来寻找这个那么年久古老的节日了。

圣瓦伦丁的传说

情人节的历史,就是故事中有关那个圣者的描述是神秘而又多种多样的。我们知道二月一直是作为罗曼蒂克的日子,而今日的情人节是含有基督教和古罗马双重的传统遗迹。但是,这个圣瓦伦丁又是谁,他又怎么成为这个古代节日里的一位人物呢?

在天主教里,至少承认三位不同的圣瓦伦丁,或者圣华伦提奴,都是殉道者。其中一个传说是说,瓦伦丁是第三世纪在罗马的一位教士。当罗马帝国皇帝克劳迪亚斯二世觉得单身汉比已经结婚成家的男子更善战,于是他就立法禁止年轻人结婚。瓦伦丁觉得这样法律是不公正的,于是他就不顾克劳迪亚斯的法令,密密地为热恋的年轻人证婚。但是当瓦伦丁这样做的情形被发觉了之后,克劳迪亚斯就把瓦伦丁置于死地了。

另一个传说是说,瓦伦丁之所以被处死是因为他企图帮助被监禁在罗马帝国监狱里遭受酷刑的基督徒逃出监狱。有一个传说是说,当瓦伦丁被关在监狱里的时候,可能因为狱吏的女儿常常到监狱里来看他,他就爱上了这个女孩,于是就在被处死之前发出了第一份“情人节”的贺信。传说,在他处死之前,在给她的情书里,他写了“发自您的瓦伦丁”。这样的落款至今还被人沿用。虽然对于瓦伦丁的传说各式各样,但是所有的传说都显示出瓦伦丁是一位富有同情心、具有英雄气概,而且当然是罗曼蒂克的一位善者。到中世纪的时候,又有瓦伦丁的好名声,就成为英格兰和法国最受欢迎的圣者。

典型的情人节祝贺

除了在美国有情人节以外,在加拿大、墨西哥、英国、法国、和澳大利亚人们都过情人节。在英国,约从十七世纪开始,人们逐步开始庆祝情人节。到十八世纪中叶,无论是社会的哪一个阶层,在友人之间、恋人之间都交换一下小礼物或者写一张小卡片,用来表示感情。从二十世纪开始,由于印刷术的提高,印制好的卡片取代了手写的卡片。使用印制好的卡片来向人表达感情,这是非常方便的,而当面的诉说可能会带来尴尬,所以就采用的比较少了。邮费的降低也是人们采用寄卡片的方式来传递情人节的问候之原因之一。

美国人好像是在1700年代出开始手写情人节的贺卡。在1840年代,以斯帖.A.郝仑开始在美国出售大量制作的情人节卡片。因此,郝仑就被荣誉为“情人节之母”,因为她用真的花边、缎带、和五光十色的图片来制作精美情人节的卡片,这种卡片被人称为“精品”。根据贺卡协会的统计,现在每年人们寄出约一亿张情人节卡片,这就把情人节卡片提升到卡片中亚军的地位。(冠军是圣诞卡片,每年人们寄出二十六亿张圣诞卡片。)而大约百分之八十五的情人节卡片是由女士们所购买的。


讨论问题:

  1. 在你那里,人们是怎样庆祝情人节的?

  2. 这文章有没有什么地方使你震惊的地方?

  3. 你是否曾经制作或者受到任何的情人节卡片?

Every February 14, across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from? Find out about the history of this centuries-old holiday, from ancient Roman rituals to the customs of Victorian England.

THE LEGEND OF ST. VALENTINE

The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

TYPICAL VALENTINE’S DAY GREETINGS

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.



Discussion Questions:

  1. How do people celebrate Valentine’s Day in your country?

  2. What was surprising or interesting to you about this article?

  3. Have you ever made or received a valentine card?
Comments