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Be my Valentine

To explore the roots of Valentine’s Day.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To explore the roots of Valentine’s Day.

Preparation and materials

  • The content of this assembly could easily be entirely student led.
  • Download the song, ‘I just called to say I love you’ by Stevie Wonder.
  • A candle and matches for the ‘Time for reflection’.

Assembly

  1. Valentine’s Day is celebrated all over the world in a similar style. People give cards and gifts to loved ones, with large numbers of people giving sweets and chocolates. In some Asian countries, women give men chocolates on Valentine’s Day and the men return the favour a month later. This second day is called White Day, and there is a lot of pressure to ensure that the answering gift is three times more valuable than the original.

    Such small variations point to the universal significance of Valentine’s Day.
  2. Early Christian records tell of two Saint Valentines. They lived in the third century and were martyred in Rome. Their feast day is on 14 February. Neither, however, had an explicit connection to romance.
  3. The first recorded connection between St Valentine’s Day and romance is found in the early author Chaucer. In his 1382 work, Parlement of Foules, he wrote: ‘For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.’

    Birds certainly do start making nests and mating at this time of year. But whether the link between love and St Valentine’s Day originated with Chaucer or whether he was recording a well-known tradition, we don’t know.

    But the tradition spread, no doubt helped by the medieval idea of courtly love, and increasingly young men felt required to express their feelings through verse and poetry.

    In 1797, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer was published. This book contained large numbers of romantic verses. It allowed young men not gifted in verse to express their feelings by choosing and copying out pre-written valentines.
  4. Before the advent of the printing press and mass media, handwritten verses were expected. But the arrival of cheaper postage and industrial printing helped to establish the tradition of sending printed Valentine’s Day cards.

    The successful commercial exploitation of the festival has led to its being called a ‘Hallmark holiday’ – a festival promoted by companies looking to make money. We see evidence of this in the global expansion of this Christian festival, and the involvement in the 1980s of diamond companies using the day as a reason to sell jewellery.
  5. But there is something more, something very genuine, about the festival. The cards and gifts may be mass produced, but they have a personal meaning. It’s important in a busy world to make time to let individual people know just how much they are valued.

Time for reflection

Light a candle, and play the music (see ‘Preparation and materials’). Once the first chorus has been sung, say the words of the reflection, leaving the music running.

I just called to say I love you.
Maybe you had a row with family at home today
–  perhaps a call would be good?
Maybe you haven’t spoken to an older member of your family,
maybe you haven’t spoken to a grandparent, for ages
–  perhaps a call would be good?
Maybe you need to make up with a friend
–  perhaps a call would help?

I just called to say I love you.

I just called to say how much I care.

Today, let’s all say to someone, somewhere, that we care.
And maybe we could do that, too, on days other than Valentine’s Day.

Publication date: January 2013   (Vol.15 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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