Valentine’s Day History & the Uniquely Singaporean Version
Valentine’s Day or more rightly St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on Feb 14 every year in honor of Saint Valentine. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Saint Valentine could have been either a priest in Rome, a bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) or a martyr in the Roman province of Africa. How in the world did a priest, bishop or a martyr become a symbol of love? Ah, this is where history turns murky. So Valentine’s Day could be for all you know a myth that has survived through the generations.
The relationship between St. Valentine’s Day and romantic, sentimental actions was first recorded in 14th century England and France. But in 1969, the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine’s Day as a public holiday from its calendar. I doubt if this had anything to do with the Vietnam War, probably more with the hippie culture. But the rebels ‘prevailed’ and Valentine’s Day is still commemorated today.
Despite the Western and Christian leanings of the romantic Feb 14, other cultures too have their own conceptions of this day. The Chinese Valentine’s Day or Qi Xi falls on the seventh day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar. And so for 2006, it is actually celebrated on 31 July. The Japanese too have their indigenous notion called Tanabata and White Day analogous to the Korean Black Day. The Brazilians have a conception of Boyfriend/Girlfriend Day on June 12; a similar one for the Colombians on the third Friday and Saturday of September.
In Singapore, we are looking for new creative ways to boost retail sales and the Feb 14 Valentine’s Day nicely falls during the ‘offpeak’ period. Every hotel, florist, cruise ship operator and jeweler marks up prices so that when Singaporeans publicly articulate their love, they will spend more and boost the economy. We is Singapore, we is pragmatic.
But since we are Singapore, we also cannot lose out to other countries. So I think we need to have a local conception of Valentine’s Day. What better way than to have a St. Gahmen Day where we all profess our lurve to our gahmen! On this day, all bus and cab prices will be marked up 10% and GST will be increased to 50%. How? :)