Today, February 14, sees that annual explosion of romance, gifts, and love: Valentine’s Day. With traditions stretching back to Ancient Rome, the day is normally one of indulging senses. However, this year will be the first COVID-19 affected Valentine’s Day. Celebrations will involve traditional and very modern ways here in Norway.
Saint Valentine: From a Ceasar to a chocolate box
Valentine’s Day (also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine) has its origins in Ancient Rome.
There are numerous versions of just who Saint Valentine was but all center on a martyred early Christian, Valentinus.
He was said to have restored the sight of his jailer’s daughter and to have written her a card, signed ‘Your Valentine’, the night before his execution.
Pope Gelasius I replaced the pagan fertility festival of “Lupercalia” with the veneration of Saint Valentine in 496 BCE who was said to be martyred on February 14.
It was not until the 14 and 15th centuries, however, that the romantic connotations of Valentine’s Day emerged. During this high age of courtly romance, poetry, feasting, and amorous songs were all forms of celebrations on this day.
By the mid-19th century, the modern form of Valentine’s Day took place. The reduction in postal prices, in both the United Kingdom and the United States, led to the popular trend of sending anonymous Valentine’s Day cards. This was seen as a particularly adventurous and overt expression and release of emotion for otherwise prudish and uptight societies.
In 1868, British chocolate manufacturer Cadbury created the first heart-shaped box of chocolates. This was to become a staple of Valentine’s Day gifts worldwide. The day quickly became associated with the giving of gifts, along with cards.
Rising incomes in the 20th century saw an increase in the range of gifts given on Valentine’s Day that included jewelry, red roses, pets to even edible lingerie!
Alle Hjerters Dag: A recent trend in Norway
There is only a fairly recent tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day in Norway. Although the day itself is an official feast day in the Lutheran church (of which the Church of Norway, Den norske kirke adheres to), there has been little historical celebration. It is commonly known as Alle Hjerters Dag (All Heart’s Day) and Kjærlighetsdagen (Love Day)
In Norway, whether you celebrate it seriously or not really depends on your age. The “Americanization” of popular culture, spread with the help of the internet, has seen a rise in the embrace of Valentine’s Day.
According to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), the people most preoccupied with this day are 16 – 19-year-olds. Furthermore, just 22% of people over the age of 55 will celebrate the day.
As the first Valentine’s Day specific cards went on sale, in Norwegian stores, in only 1993, the celebration of the day is still not as strong in Norway yet.
Norway has followed the most common traditional ways of celebrating the day with couples going out for dinner, the exchanging of gifts, and the sending of flowers, cards, and chocolate.
Isn’t it just a ‘Hallmark holiday’?
For many people though, Valentine’s Day is just another excuse to open the wallet between Christmas and Easter holidays. The feeling of mass commercialization of a Christian Saint Day is nothing new.
The 19th century saw a huge decrease in the price of postal services in the United States due to improved infrastructure. This was a boon to greeting card companies of which the biggest is still Hallmark.
The sending of Valentine’s Day greeting cards has been a cheap and efficient notion of love going on since, at least, the mid 19th century in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Though COVID-19 restrictions impacted many restaurants and small businesses last year, Americans still managed to spend some USD 27.4 billion on Valentine’s Day last year.
The figure dwarfs anything that Norwegians spend on the day but there is a healthy amount of advertising and marketing campaigns in most stores (physical or online) in the lead up to Valentine’s Day here.
Cupid in the time of COVID
Like many other events and celebrations of the past year, this Valentine’s Day will take on a new look. Although restaurants are (mostly) open in Norway, COVID restrictions and an unwillingness to dine out will see reduced celebrations.
With many people and businesses suffering some sort of financial hardship over the past year, more muted celebrations, and spending, will be expected. However, the fact that this year February 14 is also Morsdagen (Mother’s Day) should help retail spending halt its downward trend.
The rise of dating apps, like Tinder, and social media has seen Valentine’s Day already become virtual for many. As a COVID safe friendly form of celebrating, many lovebirds will either conduct their dates over Zoom or just relax on the couch with dinner being provided by a delivery app.
There is, unfortunately, a darker side to Valentine’s Day. The unrealistic standards of love and romance, proliferated on social media, can have serious mental health implications.
As the healthcare sector has very much been in the public consciousness lately, organizations like the Norwegian Red Cross (Rode Kors) are utilizing Valentine’s Day to highlight their need for blood. The Day’s connotations with the heart, and the color red, play into their need for all and every type of blood donation.
Alle Hjerters Dag expressions
Finally, for all those budding romantics, Norway Today has prepared a list of expressions commonly used for Alle Hjerter’s Dag:
– Jeg elsker deg = I love you.
– Vil du være min Valentin = Will you be my Valentine’s?
– Til min kjære på Valentinsdagen = To my sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.
– God Valentinsdag, min vennen = Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend.
– Ha en fin Valentinsdagen alle sammen = Have a nice Valentines day everyone.
Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayTravel
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