By Eleanor Low
Whaddup, fellow traveller! It’s February 14th, and you know what that means…
It’s Valentine's Day! Translation: it’s an excuse to shower that very special somebody with love. Or, to give to yourself- no judgement here! Chocolate is always 10x cheaper than usual anyway, so why shouldn’t I take advantage of that?!
But, really, what are the ingredients to a perfect Valentine’s Day? Is there a manual I could borrow? A blueprint? A grandma who can tell me all her experiences and secrets? Maybe all that holiday romance movie-watching could teach me something about love….
Well, you may fret no further, dear reader! Because I’ve got something far better than all that: a list of Valentine's Day-related features that you may utilise and exploit at your leisure. So, read on, and enjoy!
1. History (Get your tinfoil hats on. It’s a rather ambiguous story…)
If you were unaware, Valentine's Day is named after St Valentine… But did you know there were actually two St Valentines?! Yeah, St Valentine de Terni, and St Valentine de Raethia- but researchers have agreed that St Valentine de Terni fits the bill better than Raethia does, so Terni is our guy. Today’s understanding of Valentine’s Day traditions originates from many different instances throughout history, and back in the day there really was no definite way to confirm a long string of events such as St Valentine's life, hence the debatability of Valentine’s Day’s roots. But I tried my best!
The name Valentine is said to have come from the Norman word ‘Gelatin’, meaning a lover or a gallant. St Valentine de Terni existed in 200 AD, was a healer and possessed divine powers, but met an unfortunate end at the hands of Emperor Claudius II- the reason being he disobeyed Claudius’s Edict of Milan rule that stated Roman Soldiers mustn’t get married because it would make them weaker in battle. Regardless he married together many Roman soldiers and paid the ultimate price. Oh, that and courageously insulting the emperor of Rome. I mean, yikes.
And so, in his cell, hours before his death, Valentine restored the sight of the prison guard’s daughter, Julia, consequently converting the two to Christianity (And later on, 47 members of their extended family). But as her father set about releasing all the Christians from the prison (spurred on by his newfound Christian faith), Julia and Valentine seemingly fell in love. Like, really, incredibly fast… hah, as if that was ever going to go anywhere!
So as a final farewell, before his execution, Valentine wrote Julia a love letter, not only signing ‘your Valentine’ at the bottom (a tradition still carried out today) but permanently sealing his legacy as one of the most remembered saints ever!
He now sleeps near a pink almond tree, a reflection of his matrimonial love, ever since the year 270 AD.
However the day after his death occurred rituals and festivities for the Roman God Faunus- the most important special ritual of the day being called Februatio, eventually morphing into our much beloved February…
And so, maaaany many hundreds of years later, Valentine resurfaces! We see him in The Nuremberg Chronicle, a 15th-century picture book originally transcribed in Latin (hello, my Latin friend who I know is reading this right now). The book is relatively accurate yet mediocre in its retelling of Valentine's life. All except for one fateful change: moving St Valentines Feast Day on March 16th, to February 14th; Valentine's death day.
From then on, all kinds of scraps and pieces expanded the Valentine's Day customs, from giving chocolates to the excessive use of the colour red… and everything in between! But these are the roots of Valentine's Day, and we can only admire the unique story it has become.
A depiction of St Valentine, date and illustrator unknown
Two words. Be cheesy.
It’s popular. It’s easy to shop for. It’s on theme. Let's stick with it!
Roses are by far the most popular flower- and the most romantic! Whether it be the classic velvety red ones, a bouquet of angelic white ones, or dandy shades of pink, it’s a charming cliché that we embrace wholeheartedly. My personal favourite, handmade flowers, is a creative way to show you put in the effort for your loved one. You can make many different designs, in any kind of style, cos they’re all over the internet. And bonus: they never die!
If you plan on fixing to one location for your Valentine's Day celebration, I recommend some heart-shaped balloons, red wrapping and decorative napkins, even glitter if you don’t mind cleaning it up afterwards. Rose petals are a nice touch, especially if accompanied by candles on a cloudless summer night and great food. More on that in step 3.
It’s the maker or breaker of the perfect Valentine’s Day. The options are actually limitless, and all depend on your plans really! But there is always a sweet element to the food served on valentines day.
If you’re home together on valentines day, homemade pancakes or French toast for breakfast is a must-have!
Or if you aren’t able to flip a pancake, making heart-shaped cookies is something you could participate in as an afternoon snack. It’s a fun, memorable experience too, and giving the gift of a great time is always a treat.
If you’re looking for something slightly less saccharine, pizza is a versatile food that can be taken anywhere, shared together easily, and is still just as delicious. And it's cheap in most places, so you don’t need to feel bad if you didn’t get to the EFTPOS machine first and your Valentine ended up paying (that is unless you share a bank account…).
Usually, people tend to buy food out anyway, whether it be a reservation booked beforehand or just finding a place to grab a meal while out having fun. But if you didn’t, a home-cooked meal is pretty irresistible… trust me, it works like a charm. Especially if straight after, there will be popcorn and a goofy romance movie. To be honest, the content of the food doesn’t need to be anything fancy, it’s the thought that counts. Just try not to burn anything- if the food is at least edible, then that’s a pleasant bonus.
Fashion depends on your tastes, and what kind of mood you’re planning on going with. I’m not going to tell you what suits you best, you can decide that for yourself! But I recommend something with thought put into it, like pressed and ironed shirts, a colour scheme, polished shoes, and, as a final touch, something sparkly like jewellery or earrings (which look good on you regardless). Makeup is an option too. Usually, sweaters and ugg boots are reserved for cold days, and oversized jumpers and untucked shirts in particular make you look shorter, according to fashion icon Tan France.
If we want to keep with the whole Valentine's theme, something red or pink or with a pattern involving these colours would look really cute.
A floral dress perhaps, or a subtly red overcoat changes everything- make sure your accessories match these too then! 😊
But keep in mind your intention too. Will you be walking around a lot? Going someplace expensive? Or relaxing at home? Tweak your outfit to match your day's events.
But, no matter the activity, having matching outfits is a heartwarming idea!! And there is no better time to do it than on Valentine's Day. At worst you’d just look like twins, but at best, a fearsome power couple. Iconic, even. In sync. Truly stunning. The praise goes on.
While it’s not necessary, many people do it anyway. And if it’s unavoidable, I may as well be your guide.
Regardless of what your Valentine likes, the classics are always along the lines of something tasteful, like golden necklaces and other jewellery, heart lockets and pendants, a box of chocolates (make sure to remember their favourite brand), a new dress, or something to remind each other of the love you share, like matching keychains, mugs, pens, books, etc. It’s all quite thoughtful!
And then, there’s also knowing whether or not your Valentine had been asking for anything specific recently too, and, well, if that is indeed the case, then there’s no better day to present it to them than on February 14th!
Additionally, accompanying a gift with a letter is also quite common, but that’s up to you.
If you’re still stumped on ideas, however, I have got just the saving grace of an idea for you!! it’s another one of my favourites for a reason: the gift of a great time! Just like earlier when I mentioned baking biscuits together, giving your partner a collection of ‘passes’ detailing certain outings to do together, is such a foolproof gift. You can write on there an outing to the movies, restaurants, a homemade meal, a sports game, a trip to the shopping centre and so on… each event per card. A different variation suggests buying the experiences such as paid-for tickets to a theatre play, or a pretty boat ride, for example; which are also just as fun. But remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive; the magic is in the effort and imagination you put into it. Moreover, you could set a due date on each of the cards too if you like, and keep them in a little jar to pull out on occasion. But I’m leaving the reigns of creative directing in your capable hands.
Ah, the end of the article. What better way to end than to let you know that my mailbox and contacts are always open and available haha…
“A History of Valentines” (book) by Ruth Webb Lee