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Love is in the air – mingled with the tempting aroma of flour, eggs, milk and butter, fried until golden brown.
Mid February sees two celebrations which might appear disconnected, but which have links to Christianity.
Unless you have just landed from Mars, you cannot fail to have noticed shops gearing themselves up for the annual Valentine’s Day push. The last bout of festive mince pie indigestion has barely settled when the supermarkets are filled with pink balloons and slushy cards.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14. It’s a day to show love and affection towards loved ones, often by gifting cards, flowers or chocolates.
Its origins are shrouded in mystery, but it is believed St Valentine was a priest in Rome in the third century AD.
Marriage in Rome at the time was banned because of the belief of Emperor Claudius II that married men made bad soldiers. Valentine disagreed and defied the emperor by arranging marriages in secret.
He was found out, sent to jail and sentenced to death.
While incarcerated, Valentine is said to have fallen in love with the daughter of a prison officer. On February 14, awaiting death, he presented a note to his lover which ended in the now well-known phrase ‘from your Valentine’.
Valentine Day is believed to have been celebrated at a Roman festival called Lupercalia, during which a boy would take a girl’s name from a hat. The two would become a couple for the duration of the festival, often leading to marriage.
Never slow to adopt a pagan festival, the church soon began using the festival for Christian celebration – but continued to remember St Valentine.
Over time, St Valentine’s name was widely used to express love and February 14 continues to be a date for lovers.
Before Cupid fires his arrows on Valentine’s Day, there is another festival with religious roots. Tuesday February 13 is Pancake Day, the traditional feast on the day before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
Lent occurs on the 40 days leading up to Easter. It was a period of fasting and on Shrove Tuesday, Anglo Saxon Christians attended confession and were absolved from their sins. This was described as being ‘shriven’, hence the name Shrove Tuesday.
Shrove Tuesday gave families the opportunity to use up leftover eggs and fats before the beginning of Lent – perfect for pancakes.
In Olney, Buckinghamshire, a tale dating from the 15th century tells of a local woman hearing the shriving bell while she was making pancakes at home. She then ran to church in her apron with the pan of pancakes still in hand.
Now, hundreds of contestants mark Shrove Tuesday by racing with a frying and hot pancakes through the streets – dressed as housewives.
February 13 will mark the one day it’s acceptable for food to be tossed around kitchens across the globe before being enjoyed by millions.
Roses are red…and the shops are full of Valentine’s Day goods. Photo courtesy of RS McColls, Lochgilphead. 06_a06_Valentines03