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Happy "Valentine's Day"
By Alan Timblick
President of The Seoul Times
Saint Valentine is a widely recognized third-century Roman saint commemorated on February 14 and associated since the High Middle Ages with a tradition of courtly love.

Around the world February 14 is celebrated as "Valentine's Day." But the manner of celebration varies from country to country and says a lot about the way in which men think about women and vice-versa.

in Korea and in Japan, from where this practice was imported, the custom is for ladies to give chocolate to men, with whom they are not necessarily romantically involved. It was a clever and runaway marketing success begun in the 1960's by the Morinaga Confectionery Company. Cashing in on the craze, the company followed up by inventing "White Day" an event totally unknown in the West, when the men are supposed to reciprocate in similar fashion with chocolates for the ladies.

Something of the thrill and romantic excitement experienced in America and the UK got lost in translation, it seems, since the custom of giving sweets, flowers, poems and cards practiced in Victorian England through to today was more to do with anonymous declarations of secret devotion normally by male admirers to the probably unaware lady who was the object of such attention.

But who actually was St. Valentine? The facts are obscure but it seems he was probably a third century Roman priest who was executed in 269 CE for trying to convert the Emperor Claudius to Christianity. Legends have it that he helped Christian couples to marry, which is how his name became associated with romance.

And it is surely no coincidence that the cult of Valentine, on February 14, supposedly the date of his death, caught on quickly since it coincided with the pagan feast of Lupercalia (the horned goat-like god Pan) when young men were wont to run around naked beating up young women - and probably worse - to celebrate a fertility cult.

But the Victorians, great civilizers as they saw themselves, tamed all this barbarism by associating Valentine with the concept of "courtly love" popularized by tales of the court of King Arthur. The key motifs of this concept were gentlemen's gallantry and chivalry towards women, the elevation of the female to the top of a pedestal as an object of adoration, probably unattainable. SirLancelot, Queen Guinevere, even Sir Walter Raleigh,are famed practitioners of the Art of Courtly love, which survives today in western etiquette. Thus "ladies first", men holding doors open for women, helping them to be seated at the table have become an intrinsic part of good manners.

So, with this explanation, The Seoul Times, and in particular its President, would like to wish lovers everywhere, especially ladies who are loved, and of course my own dear wife,

A Happy Valentines Day!

Alan Timblick OBE
President, The Seoul Times
Korea's only on-line English language Daily

Alan Timblick serves as President of The Seoul Times. He grew up in England, graduated from Oxford University, and has lived in Seoul for over three decades. A former banker, he also worked for the Korean gpvernment as head of Invest Korea and for Seoul City as head of the Seoul Global Center.






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