Holidays and traditions in english-speaking countries

: 3/13

The First-Footer, on crossing the threshold, greets the family with A gude New Year to ane and a! or simply A Happy New Year! and pours out a glass from the flask he carries. This must be drunk to the dregs by the head of the house, who, in turn, pours out a glass for each of his visitors. The glass handed to the First-Footer himself must also be drunk to the dregs. A popular toast is:

Your good health!

The First-Footers must take something to eat as well as to drink, and after an exchange of greetings they go off again on their rounds.

ST. VALENTINES DAY FEBRUARY 14

Ill be your sweetheart, if you will be mine,

All of my life Ill be your Valentine

Its here again, the day when boys and girls, sweethearts and lovers, husbands and wives, friends and neighbours, and even the office staff will exchange greetings of affections, undying love or satirical comment. And the quick, slick, modern way to do it is with a Valentine card.

There are all kinds, to suit all tastes, the lush satin cushions, boxed and be-ribboned, the entwined hearts, gold arrows, roses, cupids, doggerel rhymes, sick sentiment and sickly sentimentality its all there. The publishers made sure it was there, as Mr Punch complained, there weeks in advance!

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

In his magazine, Punch, as long ago as 1880 he pointed out that no sooner was the avalanche of Christmas cards swept away than the publishers began to fill the shops with their novel valentines, full of Hearts and Darts, Loves and Doves and Floating Fays and Flowers.

It must have been one of these cards which Charles Dickens describes in Pickwick Papers. It was a highly coloured representation of a couple of human hearts skewered together with an arrow, cooking before a cheerful fire and superintending the cooking was a highly indelicate young gentleman in a pair of wings and nothing else.

In the last century, sweet-hearts of both sexes would spend hours fashioning a homemade card or present. The results of some of those painstaking efforts are still preserved in museums. Lace, ribbon, wild flowers, coloured paper, feathers and shells, all were brought into use. If the aspiring (or perspiring) lover had difficulty in thinking up a message or rhyme there was help at hand. He could dip into the quiver of Love or St. Valentines Sentimental Writer, these books giving varied selections to suit everyones choice. Sam Weller, of Pick wick Papers fame, took an hour and a half to write his Valentine, with much blotting and crossing out and warnings from his father not to descend to poetry.

The first Valentine of all was a bishop, a Christian martyr, who before the Romans put him to death sent a note of friendship to his jailers blind daughter.

The Christian Church took for his saints day February 14; the date of an old pagan festival when young Roman maidens threw decorated love missives into an urn to be drawn out by their boy friends.

A French writer who described how the guests of both sexes drew lots for partners by writing down names on pieces of paper noted this idea of lottery in 17th century England. It is all the rage, he wrote.

But apparently to bring the game into a family and friendly atmosphere one could withdraw from the situation by paying a forfeit, usually a pair of gloves.

One of the older versions of a well-known rhyme gives the same picture:

The rose is red, the violets are blue,

The honeys sweet and so are you.

Thou art my love and I am thine.

I drew thee to my Valentine.

The lot was cast and then I drew

And fortune said it should be you.

Comic valentines are also traditional. The habit of sending gifts is dying out, which must be disappointing for the manufacturers, who nevertheless still hopefully dish out presents for Valentines Day in an attempt to cash in. and the demand for valentines is increasing. According to one manufacturer, an estimated 30 million cards will have been sent by January, 14 and not all cheap stuff, either.

Holidays and traditions in English speaking countries.

Our cards cost from 6d to 15s 6d, he says, but ardent youngsters want to pay more. They can pay more. I saw a red satin heart-shaped cushion enthroning a pearl necklace and earrings for 25s. Another, in velvet bordered with gold lace, topped with a gilt leaf brooch, was 21s (and if anyone buys them well, it must be love!).

There are all kinds:

The sick joke reclining lady on the front, and inside she will kick you in the ear.

The satirical You are charming, witty, intelligent, etc., and if you believe all this you must be inside the card you find an animated cuckoo clock.

And the take-off of the sentimental Heres the key to my heart use it before I change the lock.

: 1/05/2007