“It's because you're older now and you've been together a while,” says a work colleague when I tell her that we no longer exchange Valentine's cards, never questioning where the tradition even came from or why it's celebrated in mid February.
Leeds Metropolitan University's festival expert, Stephen Sayers, points out that Valentine's Day coincides with a fruitful time of year when the increase in day length allows birds enough time to repair nests and mate. Explaining why this is central to February 14th, he says: "Our ancestors saw [this] as the first signs of respite from the deprivations of winter [and the awakening] of new life. Courtships that started now might lead easily to marriages in May, which in turn might lead to the birth of babies in January and February when they had a good chance of survival." That's fast moving for you!
Since Roman times people have sent cards to each other at various times in the year and in the late Middle Ages St Valentine's day gifts became popular with Valentine's specific cards arriving after the penny post in the nineteenth century. By the First World War sending bawdy Valentine's cards was no longer popular but sadly during the 1950s the custom was revived.
At school Valentine's Day was a day to dread. Once a year especially to celebrate the occasion, my secondary school allowed pupils to purchase roses to be delivered by designated students throughout the day during lessons. Obviously those who'd been sent roses, wandered around school proudly displaying them. I seem to remember only ever receiving a rose once and disappointedly discovering that a sympathetic friend had kindly sent it.
As the years passed and I moved up the school, any boyfriends that I did have were out-of-schoolers. I may not have received any more roses but I at least got the odd card. I remember the build-up to Valentine's Day being full of anticipation and worry – would he like the card?, was it too soppy?, should I buy a present and if so, what?...
Having been with the same person now for over a decade, Valentine's Day began in a similar vein but has since been overshadowed by his Birthday falling five days later. We used to buy cards and certainly bought presents too but as we've spent several Valentine's Days living in separate cities, we often had to commemorate the occasion days earlier or later, and in a few cases weeks later!
With age, we have also begun to avoid Birthdays by going away. This relatively new tradition has meant that over the last three or four years, we've been away immediately after Valentine's Day and decided that we'd be going out for enough meals already. This year is no different, except as our tenth “V-Day”, we decided a visit to Mahmoods was finally on the cards.
For those unsure, Mahmoods is a Yorkshire-based eatery similar to McDonalds. I detest McDonalds and actively try to avoid crossing the threshold, unless I'm taking advantage of their toilet facilities so you might ask why I wanted to try Mahmoods for Valentine's Day? The answer... The sight of a billboard advertising their “Big Dripper” burger. The name seemed so inappropriate and the connotations so wrong, we have both been threatening to sample a “Big Dripper” for some time.
I've munched through some enormous Kiwi burgers and as a result, worryingly experienced the early signs of a heart attack so approached Mahmoods with caution. Perusing the menu, we discovered the “Big Dripper” is no longer top man. The “|King Kong” has two more burgers than the “Dripper” stuffed inside, taking its number to five. Remembering the heart palpitations I had in Queenstown after the “Ferg Burger”, we both opt for the “Dripper” and agree to save the “King Kong” to celebrate the next decade together. Although disappointing in size, the “Dripper” is tasty and partially lives up to its name, leaving my face caked in burger sauce.
We may not have had a romantic meal but have at least finally ticked off something from our joint “to do” list. Whether you celebrate Valentine's Day and how you do so is nothing to do with age – except of course, teenage feelings of anxiety thankfully pass. My father still writes his annual poem in the card he buys my mum and we still at least acknowledge the day's existence.