Monthly Archives: February 2019

  • Valentine’s Day – it’s sheer poetry!

    valentines day
    Valentine’s Day – it’s sheer poetry!

    It’s that time of year when lovebirds everywhere exchange cards and gifts and enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner for two.

    But why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day each year? What’s so romantic about 14 February? And who is Saint Valentine, anyway? Let’s tackle that tricky last question first.

    It seems there were lots of sainted Valentines in Rome in the 3rd century. Some were said to perform secret weddings that went against the wishes of the authorities – and most of them met a sticky end.

    Others were martyred simply because they administered to persecuted Christians. Legend has it that one of these priests was martyred on 14 February 269 and became known as Saint Valentine, giving rise to the Feast of St Valentine in the Christian calendar.

    That’s one explanation of St Valentine. Here’s another …

    In some folk traditions in Europe, St Valentine’s Day is when people celebrate the start of the new growing season in the fields and vineyards. In these cultures, Saint Valentine is the saint that of Spring and good health.

    So much for the origins then, but where does the romance come into it?

    Historians believe that we have the 14th century poet Geoffrey Chaucer to thank for first connecting St Valentine’s Day with romantic love. His poem, Parlement of Foules (Parliament of Fowls), describes the gathering of birds on “seynt valentynes day” to choose their mates for the year.

    The poem is a humorous and philosophical exploration of love. In the end the birds can’t decide on their mates and put the decision off until the next year.

    More than 200 years later, in Hamlet, Shakespeare also makes a romantic connection, in Ophelia’s song:

    “Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,

    All in the morning betime,

    And I a maid at your window,

    To be your Valentine.”

    So, whatever the true origins of Valentine’s Day, these two giants of English literature probably did more than anyone to popularise it among the wider population as a day for romance. Good for them.

    Wishing a very happy Valentine’s Day to all of you lovebirds – and to those who are taking a leaf out of Chaucer’s birds!

  • Happy Chinese New Year – the Year of the Pig

    chinese new year 2019
    Tuesday 5 February 2019 heralds the start of the Chinese New Year. This year, it’s the Chinese Year of the Pig, which runs until 24 January 2020.

    The Pig is the 12th and last sign of the Chinese Zodiac – according to one particular myth, this is because the pig was the last of the invited animals to turn up to a party hosted by The Jade Emperor, the supreme deity of Chinese tradition. In this legend, The Jade Emperor set a race, which determined the order of the zodiac animals.

    If you were born in the Year of the Pig (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019), then lucky you, because in Chinese culture, the pig is a symbol of abundance and good fortune. Personality-wise, pigs are likely to be good-natured, generous and compassionate.

    But what about the other 11?

    Rat – Years: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020. The rat came first, so it comes as no surprise to learn that people born in these years are quick-witted, intelligent, wise, resourceful and often successful. They’re also likeable and kind.

    Ox – Years: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021. Oxen are hard-working, strong, honest, loyal and reliable. They don’t like being in the limelight but in the end, their qualities shine through.

    Tiger – Years: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022. Tigers are impetuous, adventurous and courageous – they love a good challenge. They’re also well-meaning and kind.

    Rabbit – Years: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023. Rabbits are quiet, clever, even-tempered and cautious. They’re also friendly and are blessed with longevity.

    Dragon – Years: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024. The only imaginary animal in the zodiac, the dragon is the most revered creature in Chinese culture. Those born in these years are strong, intelligent, innovative, confident and fearless.

    Snake – Years: 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025. Wise, intelligent, deep-thinking and sophisticated, snakes are the most enigmatic of all the 12 animals.

    Horse – Years: 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026. Horses are free spirits, full of energy and humour, who love to chase their dreams. Their biggest desire is not materialistic, but to be happy.

    Goat/Ram – Years: 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027. Goats are considerate and caring, usually putting others before themselves. Calm, gentle and shy, they crave harmony.

    Monkey – Years: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028. Monkeys are jokers who like to make people laugh. They’re also creative, charismatic and intelligent.

    Rooster – Years: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029. Honest and outspoken to the point of being blunt, roosters are the perfectionists of the zodiac. They’re also hard workers with keen powers of observation.

    Dog – Years: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030. Likeable, helpful, honest and genuine, a dog is everyone’s best friend! Their defining characteristic is their loyalty, making those born in these years much-loved and popular.

    All of this comes with the caveat that the characteristics also depend on the mineral assigned to each year – 2019 is Earth Pig. Here’s hoping he’s true his nature and brings us a year of good fortune!

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