On 14th February, St Valentine's Day, many people send a card to the one they love. The practice of sending a sweetheart or special friend a gift on Valentine's Day dates at least from the fourteenth century. But who was this Valentine? One might suppose that he was some romantic-minded fellow who pranced around in red tights or a silky toga and spread love throughout the land. However, it is a little more complicated than that.
There are several possible explanations of the origins of Valentine's Day. Firstly, February 14th was designated a feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar in honour of a Christian saint martyred by the Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. The Christian was executed on February 14th. Legend has it that Saint Valentine was beheaded because he continued to marry couples after Claudius had forbidden marriage amongst his soldiers. Moreover, February 15th was the beginning of the fertility festival in Rome to honour the god Faunus. Finally, there is also an ancient belief, noted by Chaucer in a medieval poem, that each year birds begin to mate on February 14th.
However, the tradition of sending Valentine cards has no relation to saints or to fertility rites. The modern celebration somehow picked up cupids, hearts, flowers and the over-use of the colour red. It is also a day of huge profits for florists, restaurants, greetings-card companies, sweet shops and the post office. Whatever the origin, if you are in love it is great, if you are not, it is really boring.
I. READING COMPREHENSION
1. Are the following statements TRUE or FALSE? Write down the evidence from the text. No marks are given for only TRUE or FALSE.
a. Giving presents on February 14th is a very old tradition.
2. In your own words and based on the ideas from the text, answer the following questions.
a. Explain the Christian version of the origin of St Valentine's Day.
- The Catholic Church designated this day as a feast because of a saint who was executed on February 14th because he married couples after the prohibition made by a Roman emperor.
II. USE OF ENGLISH
3. Find the words in the text that mean:
- a. moved (paragraph 1): pranced
- b. decapitated (paragraph 2): beheaded
- c. banned (paragraph 2): forbidden
- d. immense (paragraph 3): huge
4. Complete the following sentence. Use the appropriate form of the word in brackets when given.
- a. We have been celebrating St Valentine's Day since the fourteenth century, but it is only in the past thirty years or so that sending flowers has become (become) popular.
- b. Saint Valentine was a Roman priest who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of the Christians and was buried (bury) on the Via Flaminia.
- c. If I were in love, I would send (send) a Valentine card to my sweetheart.
- d Thank you for inviting (invite) me out for dinner. I like this restaurant because it is the biggest (big) in town.