Happy St Valentine's Day! Everyone agrees (information courtesy of The Writer's Almanac)that Valentine's Day is named for a Christian martyr named St. Valentine. The problem is, there are at least three St. Valentines, all of them martyrs, and not much is known about any of them. One St. Valentine -- Valentine of Terni, from the second century A.D. -- was a bishop, and he was martyred in Rome, but that's all we know. According to legend, another St. Valentine -- Valentine of Rome -- bravely disobeyed the Roman Emperor Claudius II, who had forbidden young men from getting married because he thought unmarried men made better soldiers. Valentine married people anyway, and he was executed on this day in the year 270 A.D. At some point, it was claimed that both of these saints were martyred on February 14th, but there is no reason to think that it is true in either case. Either way, February 14th was a convenient time for the Christian Church to have a holiday because it coincided with an ancient fertility festival that was celebrated every year between February 13th and February 15th. The festival was called Lupercalia, and it was partially to honor Lupa, the legendary wolf who suckled the orphaned twin brothers Romulus and Remus, who went on to found the city of Rome. Lupercalia itself was building on an even older festival, called Februa, associated with cleansing and fertility -- it is from Februa that we get the name February. For Lupercalia, goats and a dog were sacrificed, and then two high-ranking young men representing Romulus and Remus went up to the altar and had their faces smeared with the sacrificial blood. After the blood was wiped off with wool dipped in milk, the men stripped naked, cut strips of skin from the sacrificed goats, and ran around the city, joined by other enthusiastic young men. Lupercalia was a very popular festival, and it was still widely practiced even during the fifth century, more than 150 years after the Roman Empire was officially Christian. In 1913, Hallmark started making valentine cards in the USA and these days, Valentine's Day is a big event in the consumer world. Last year, the average American spent $103 (£50) on Valentine's gifts, food, and entertainment.
Talking of consuming: a market research survey published at the weekend bolsters our decision to go for a slap-up tea, rather than for lunch or dinner at our inaugural book event here in Moffat on April 16. A market research company said sales of scones in Britain had gone up by 42 per cent, while Tesco has seen them climb by an eye-watering 62 per cent. Cream doughnut sales at Tesco are up by 51 per cent and choux bun sales by 36 per cent. "Sitting down with friends for a nice cup of char and a cream cake is not only wonderfully therapeutic, but also an affordable treat" says Karen Poole, Tesco's lady in the hairnet and the chequered overall at the bakery counter. Hear hear ! Book now for your day ticket to a whole 8 hours of delicious mental, spritual and bodily refreshment at www.moffatbookevents.co.uk