Sun, 13 Feb 2000

Getting into the spirit of Valentine's Day

By Grace Segran

JAKARTA (JP): Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. The emperor, also known as Claudius the Cruel, had a difficult time recruiting soldiers to join his military legions. He believed the reason was that men did not want to leave their wives and families. As a result, Claudius forbade all marriages and engagements in Rome.

The good St. Valentine was a priest in Rome in those days. He secretly married couples, and for this kind deed, St Valentine was thrown into jail. Legend has it that many young people came to the jail to visit him. Others threw flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted St. Valentine to know that they too believed in love.

One of these young people was the daughter of a prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit St Valentine in his cell. They would sit and talk for hours and that helped to keep his spirits up.

He was later condemned to be beaten to death and to have his head cut off. On the day he was to die, he left the guard's daughter a note signed, "Love from your Valentine". He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, in the year 269 A.D.

Thus Valentine's Day came to be celebrated on Feb. 14 in honor of the good saint who believed in love. The Romans conquered much of Europe and brought Valentine's Day with them. It is believed the note which St. Valentine gave the jailer's daughter started the custom of exchanging love messages, also known as valentines. The earliest valentine recorded in Britain is from Chaucer. By 1800 commercial cards became available. Esther Howland perfected the assembly line method of card design in 1848.

Over the years and in numerous countries, Valentine's Day has been celebrated in different ways. In the 1700s in England, children would dress up as adults on Valentine's Day. They would go from door to door singing meaningless valentine ditties such as this:

Good morning to you, Valentine/ Curl your locks as I do mine/ Two before and three behind/ Good morning to you, Valentine.

The children would then get candies or money in return.

Special valentine buns are baked with raisins, caraway seeds, and plum filling. Common gifts were jewels, gloves, silk stockings, flowers, garters, handkerchiefs, and paperweights. In 1767 it became the custom to leave a valentine love letter at the door. Book writers helped men write poetry and sentimental verses.

In Wales, love spoons were carved and given as gifts on Feb. 14. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favorite decorations on the spoons. The decorations meant, "You unlock my heart".

The Scot traditionally gave his valentine a Lover's Knot which was made of ribbon or paper.

Wealthy people in the 17th and 18th centuries threw parties in France and England on Valentine's Day. In Victorian times children also threw parties. They played games, ate heart-shaped sweets, and gave each other valentines. This is still done today.

In America, valentines accompany gifts such as flowers, candy, and perfume. Flowers that accompany valentines carry a meaning:

Bleeding Heart: Hopeless but not heartless.

Gardenia: I love you in secret.

Sweet William: You are gallant and suave.

Lily of the Valley: Let us make up.

Rose: I love you passionately.

Violet: I return your love.

Bayleaf: Hope.

So how do we celebrate Valentine's Day in Indonesia?

For a start you could log on to Cupid Online and send your loved one a virtual Valentine's Day card and help Imperial Cancer Research Fund find cures and save lives, and spread love - all at the same time. And if you prefer to send cards the slow way, many stores have racks of red valentine cards on offer in their stationery department.

The hotels in town have quite a few passionate offerings.

The Dharmawangsa, a boutique hotel, has prepared a combination service of romantic retreat and gourmet dinner that fits into the daily activities of the professional executive.

Accommodation will be in the Executive Room from tonight until Tuesday morning. The retreat begins with a four-hour Romantic Retreat at The Spa today. This includes a choice of treatments in the Private Suite, and a complimentary gift of natural spa products. A healthy meal for two will be served at The Verandah Restaurant.

Guests go to work as usual tomorrow and return to whisk their valentines to The Sriwijaya Restaurant in the evening, to sample the innovative cuisine personally prepared by the Executive Chef.

The price for all this is US$380++ for a couple.

At the Kempinski, pamper your loved one on the first Valentine Day of this millennium with a bath liberally sprinkled with flower petals and a romantic candle light dinner in the room.

The Valentine Rendezvous package includes one night stay in a Valentine room with a five-course candle light dinner at Rp 999,000++ per couple per package with breakfast. There is complimentary upgrade to a Valentine's suite for the first 10 reservations. You can upgrade to a luxurious Valentine's Suite for a nominal sum of Rp 199,000++ per night.

Those who don't want the works, can opt for a poolside five- course set dinner featuring lobster thermidor and flaming cherries jubilee on Valentine's Day at Rp 199,000++/person, with a strolling band serenading love songs to boot.

Valentine Day celebrations began with a BBQ buffet on Saturday, while Cajun cuisine will be served today for Rp 85,000++/person/meal. There's a Valentine's buffet tomorrow which includes succulent prime rib and lobsters at Rp 115,000++/person.

Traditionally, the resorts do not celebrate Valentine's Day in a big way. At the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel however, a Valentine's dinner with a special dessert is available at Rp 180,000++. You could plan to spend a couple of days over this period at the five-star resort at a special ongoing domestic package starting from Rp 528,000 net, including American Breakfast.