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St Valentine versus SARS-CoV-2

St Valentine versus SARS-CoV-2

This Covid-stricken year, the feast day of the Patron Saint of love will be marked in a more muted, home-bound way

Every year on 14 February in Ireland, couples planning to marry flock to Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church to have their wedding rings blessed in the mighty presence of St Valentine’s relics. Pope Gregory XVI himself donated to the church some of the mortal remains of the 3rd century Christian priest who was killed by the Romans, subsequently achieving global cult status as the Patron Saint of young people and love.

A spanner in the works

This year, though, the church will likely be empty, as lockdowns of various degree in response to the coronavirus pandemic have taken hold of life almost everywhere. There may be some largely Covid-free places (Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) but they are far from Europe and, due to travel bans and quarantine rules in place – not a palatable option.

So, for Europeans, the question is not where, but how to spend St Valentine’s Day. And the obvious (and safe) answer is: at home or online, if your loved one is away.

Indeed, most of the usual Valentine’s Day activities can be performed in the comfort of one’s home. Lifestyle magazines are teeming with suggestions, but we are tempted to reprint the holiday tips suggested by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which are valid for Europe, too:

  • Make Valentine cards or decorations and drop them off to loved ones.
  • Take a walk with your Valentine.
  • Celebrate with loved ones virtually.
  • Prepare a special meal or dessert.
  • Plan a special movie or game night.
  • Have a picnic outside. Celebrating outdoors with people you don’t live with is safer than indoor merrymaking.

Well, it doesn’t take much to show affection, send a Valentine card, flowers, a box of chocolates or another small present to your significant other. Anyway, online retail outlets are working round the clock to meet the demand. One thing, however, will be sorely missed by some people – candle-lit romantic dinner for two at a posh restaurant.    

Traditionally, restaurants come up with special Valentine’s Day menus and treats, and in Estonia, Sweden and 15 Italian regions they remain open to visitors, although with limited working hours and safety precautions in place. But is it really so hard to arrange such a special dinner at home?

Two feasts at a time

There is one EU member state where St Valentine’s Day has imperceptibly been intertwined with a much older tradition honouring another saint. In Bulgaria, the festival of Saint Trifon Zarezan is celebrated on 14 February by the Old Style (1 February, New Style).

The celebration of Saint Trifon can be traced back to the times when the Thracians, ancient ancestors of the Bulgarians, performed the so-called Dionysian Mysteries in honour of the god of wine, revelry and the perpetual renewal of nature. Present-day Bulgarians have inherited much of the Thracians’ wine-making capabilities that were widely envied and acclaimed in Antiquity. So, for the inhabitants of these lands, love and wine are never apart.

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