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11th February 2001
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Valentine's Day - how it began

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? 

The history of Valentine's Day and its patron saint is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. 

So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, 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 11 decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young, single men his crop of potential soldiers. 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, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl who may have been his jailor's daughter who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France. 

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial which probably occurred around 270 A.D others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.

In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the Ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. 

Popo Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February Valentine's Day should be a day for romance.

"All I want for Valentine's . .

Shops all packed with gifts galore. Cupid works overtime and love just fills the air. Yes! The countdown begins for Valentine's.... You rack your brains wondering 'what to buy?....what to give?' But what would be the ideal gift you would like to receive? 

Exchange of tokens

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, 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 to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine 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.) Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. 

He wants

"The gift doesn't matter as long as it's something expensive. Then I'll know how much she cares. Besides I'll love to have something which I can show off to all my friends and say my girl friend gave this."
"Anything. I'll gladly accept anything she gives."
"I would prefer a gift that I would never think of buying for myself. Something like.... perfume!"
"Take her out for dinner and spend time with her I guess"
"Hmm... Let's see... A silver alcohol flask with the message 'drink forever' and my name engraved on it. Yeah! That's it!"

She wants

"Flowers and a surprise visit to a really romantic place."
"I'll be over the moon if he whisked me off on a raft or a rowing boat to a breathtakingly beautiful island for a picnic. It would be such fun to sing songs on the way, to explore, to run through trees, jump over gurgling streams and sit and just talk."
"Egh! Eeek! I don't want anything. I hate those mushy gushy things. I think it's so stupid."
"If my Valentine could take me to Scotland, where I'd be able to see Stonehenge he would certainly make my day. We could end the day under a Celtic moon, listening to hauntingly beautiful Celtic rhymes, imagining days of long ago when men and woman danced under the same mystic moonlight on the most romantic place on earth for me."
"Something simple and natural like flowers. Loads and loads of flowers."
"It's my dream to visit Paris. I'll love to sight see, walk down the famous Champs Elysees and climb right up to the Eiffel Tower. That would be one of the nicest Valentine's gifts I could ever receive." 

Chemistry of love

My fried Rob has a new girlfriend. They've been seeing each other a couple of months and he seems smitten. His eyes soften and twinkle when he talks about her and when they're together he can't keep his eyes-or hands-off her. But when I asked him whether he was in love, he shrugged and admitted that he wasn't sure. "I think I am," he said. "but how can you tell?"

What exactly is love and how do you know when you have fallen "in" it? Rob is far from alone in pondering this crucial question. Indeed, scientists all over the world are exploring just this issue, analysing the unique interaction of hormones and neurotrans-mitters, emotions and intellect that sends our hearts into somersaults and cartwheels. Oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, oxytocin, serotonin and vasopressin all course through our blood and operate on our brain, producing fatigue and depression or hot-blooded arousal depending on their falling and rising levels.

"When we go into a room, we radiate energy," explains Dr. Rajendra Sharma, medical director of the Hale Clinic in England. "If someone is there that we want to see, wavelengths coincide. It's a primeval connection. Men and women emit pheromones. As soon as the brain smells these, hormone levels may heighten."

So much for romance. It seems that attraction triggers a neurochemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) along dopamine and the hormone LHRH (luteinising hormone-releasing hormone). The LHRH travels from the hypothalamus to the pituitary where it sparks off the production of hormones carte blanche and they go through the roof. The heart pounds, the eyes widen and the body sweats, and lovers experience euphoria and exaltation. On the other hand, if your inamorata proves attached or uninterested, your hormones have nowhere to go and you wind up feeling deflated and depressed.

Pulitzer prize-winning biologist Natalie Angier goes even further. She says that successful relationships pass through three hormonal stages. "The sex hormones, which stimulate you to have sex, and then the bonding one, oxytocin, and a third group, which is about sustaining the relationship."

According to many scientists, it is oxytocin that allows passion to make the transition to happiness. It is the bonding hormone.

"In the evolutionary sense, romantic love, with all its pain, would have to have some kind of addictive quality," writer British journalist Chris Illey. "Otherwise we wouldn't be drawn to it with such compulsion. We talk about the rhythm of love, and love's rhythm is oxytocin."

Then, as we enter the third make-or-break stage of the relationship, the body begins to produce vasopressin. Mole-cularly similar to oxytocin, it also enhances memory and the feeling of who you love and why. Acting on our metabolism, it is said to generate a sense of satisfaction and contentment. If your memories are good ones, it cements your sharing and caring. It they are bad memories, not even vasopressin is likely to keep you together. But hormones on their own are not enough to explain why some relationships survive while so many others fail. At the Family Research Laboratory at the University of Washington, affectionately known as the Love Lab, Dr. John Gottman is busy analysing relationships in order to identify which ones are genuine love matches that will stand the test of time.

A hop, skip and a jump away at the University of Texas, Dr. Catherine Surra has been following a group of couples since 1992, investigating the ways they make their relation-ships work. Her aim is to help couples analyse signs that things aren't going well and remedy them before love curdles.

She has found that there are two distinct types of relationship, the "relationship-driven commitment" that evolves smoothly and mutually over time, and the "event-driven commitment" that experiences ups-and-downs depending on external events. "An event-driven couple", says Dr. Surra, "is more likely to fight, split up and reunite, and eventually separate for good."

She hopes her research will enable her to teach couples how to make decisions based on information rather than emotions.

"Some parents actively teach their children how to behave in relationships, but others don't," she says. "Children are left to pick up what they can from their friends or from the television. Research in this field shows people what to look for."

Analysing what makes a relationship healthy may have positive side-effects for the rest of society, too, according to Dr. David Nias, a clinical psychologist at the University of London.

"There could be enormous practical gains; counsellors could benefit greatly from the research, and there is evidence to show that poor performance and accidents at work follow rows at home."

"People who have satisfactory, close relationships are likely to live longer," agrees Duncan Cramer, reader in psychological health at Loughborough University in England. "We are tying to understand relationships in a scientific way, we have noted certain trends, but it's difficult to predict which relationships will persist and which will break up-there are predictors but they aren't very accurate."

What Cramer will say is that he believes conflict resolution is the key to a good, enduring relationship. "An established marriage is likely to continue; most break-ups occur shortly after marriage, within the first four years. Something goes wrong in the early year, and it's not clear what. The suggestion is that people who break up don't know how to handle conflict."

There are those, however, who believe that Cupid and his amorous work should remain a mystery and that the question of what love is should go unanswered.

"Love is seen as somehow incompatible with the cold scientific spirit," says Dr Nias. "There was a similar feeling in the United States when the National Science Federation first awarded a research grant for a project looking at love in the mid-1970s. An outraged senator stood up and said 'Two-hundred million Americans want to leave some things a mystery.'"

So it seems appropriate to leave the last word to the 17th-century English poet John Donne. "Love's mysteries in souls do grow," he wrote, "but yet the body is his book."

21 Reasons Why I Love You Tell your Valentine just how much the love you share means to you 

*I can be myself when I am with you. 

*Your idea of romance is dim lights, soft music, and just the two of us. 

*Because you make me feel like,like, like I have never felt before. 

*I can tell you anything, and you won't be shocked. 

*Your undying faith is what keeps the flame of love alive.

*You and me together, we can make magic. 

*We're a perfect match. 

*Thinking of you, fills me with a wonderful feeling. 

*Your love gives me the feeling, that the best is still ahead. 

*You never give up on me, and that's what keeps me going. 

*You are simply irresistible.

*I love you because you bring the best out of me. 

*You have a terrific sense of humor

*Everytime I look at you, my heart misses a beat.

*You're the one who holds the key to my heart. 

*You always say what I need to hear (You are perfect). 

*You have taught me the true meaning of love. 

*Love is what you mean to me - and you mean everything. 

*You are my theme for a dream. 

*I have had the time of my life and I owe it all to you. 

*And, of-course, your intelligence, 'cause you were smart enough to fall in love with me ;-)

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