Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hyvää Ystävänpäivää! - Happy Friend's Day! - Valentine's Day!

Today's date is February 14th, known around the world as Valentine's Day. It is of course, to many in the West, a day when couple exchange messages and tokens of love, sometimes as a hidden love! Cards, flowers, chocolate or other gifts are often given.

The history of Valentines day is shrouded in mystery...(much like the fine art of LOVE itself!) .. and there are several view on it.. Some say it was originally a Pagan festival, renamed after two Christian martyrs, who were named Valentine. The Catholic Church also recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred!

Another legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

It is said that Valentine actually sent the first 'Valentine' greeting himself. Whilst in prison, it is believed that he fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor's daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today.

In England King Henry VIII declared February 14th the king's official holiday in 1537 and many Valentine's Day customs and beliefs have come from England, spreading later to America.

The day is most associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of "Valentines". Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid.

"When will we meet again, my friend?"

However, in Finland... the day is NOT EXACTLY the same! I don't know the how or the why's behind it.. but I suspect that it came across from Finns that had emigrated to America... but here in Finland, this is not just a day for is a day for Friendship, pure and simple.

What I do know is that this day has only been celebrated in Finland since the mid-1980s, and that it has only been on official calendars since 1987! At first it was mostly children and young people that favoured the event but subsequently, the Heart Association, the Red Cross and the Post Office have all inspired the tradition amongst adults - with great success.

Whilst, I can find lots of sweet Ystävänpäivää cards, it is quite hard to find a Valentines card here... I generally have to hand make one for my husband! Still, I enjoy that and it's how it was prior to commercialisation! He, however always manages to find something with roses or hearts on - but it generally has a blank interior - no Valentine words - and of course they wouldn't be in English anyway!

A tradition phrase here is - Kolme sanaa sinulle, ole ystävä minulle! Three words to you, be a friend to me! (LOL.. which translates as five words in English!)

Muumi cards...
Finnish tradition for children and young-at-heart adults alike!

Here girls and boys give cards to each other, but many girls give cards to each other. We all got a card from my friend Minna..a friend to us all, along with four large chocolate cakes filled with strawberry mousse - YUMMY! Thanks Minna!

"You're the best! It's great that you are around!"

Oikein hyvää ystävänpäivää kaikille ystävilleni!
(A really Happy Friends Day to all of my friends!)