When the Scots predicted the death of Valentines Day

On 14 February 1889 The Scotsman published a lengthy article on the demise of St Valentine's Day. Furthermore, it predicted the death, by the year 2000, of traditional British wedding ceremonies. Proof, perhaps, that it is a fool's errand to attempt to second-guess the future.

Scots predicted the death of Valentines Day

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The death of St Valentine’s Day

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A saint’s Day may be struck out of the calendar. Saint Valentine is as dead as the “great god Pan;” or if not dead, he is in articulo mortis. The Postmaster-General no longer knows his address, or thinks it “necessary to make any arrangements” about the delivery of his correspondence. In time the “Dead Letter Office” will be the sole receptacle for Valentines. A few old-fashioned folks may keep up for a year or two the good old custom of exchanging on Valentine Day, frilled and scented missives, whereon little naked winged boys, armed with darts, hover above and around declarations of passionate love and of undying constancy in rhyme.

The youth of to-day smiles at the state of innocency and the standard of taste of their grandfathers and grandmothers as revealed in the devices and stanzas. For signs of Valentine Day, one must dive into back streets, and examine the specimens of art dedicated to it, displayed in the appropriate company of bilious confectionery and the pictures of the last “horrible murder”. They are mere mockery, or worse, and it may soon be necessary, for sanitary reasons, to leave all that remains of the patron saint of springtime and its lovers to the notice of the police, and to bury his Cupids, transfixed with their own darts, at cross roads.

It might be worth while inquiring into the causes of the change of customs and tastes that is working out the abolition of the Feast of Saint Valentine. Of a certainty, the aggrandisement of Christmas and of the Christmas Card has to answer much of the neglect into which the anniversary of the return of Spring and of vernal impulses has fallen. These also, will have their day, and follow the same process of decay. Votaries of Saint Valentine will already have marked with savage glee a wilting and dwindling in the crop of Christmas Annuals and Christmas Cards. These things must happen, lest one good custom should corrupt the world; and we may always have the assurance that if the gush of sentiment expressed on Card or Valentine be baulked of its display on the 25th of December and on the 14th of February, it will find other means and days on which to overflow.

It has been offered as an explanation of the decadence of Valentine’s Feast that there is no longer any approximately fixed date for the awakening to life of those vernal instincts and emotions which it is supposed to commemorate. “In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest.” But if the lapwing is able to tell, by signs and dates, when it is proper time to go a-courting, he is a more weather-wise biped than man. The papers have been filled with stories of infatuated birds, who have been so far deceived, by the unusual mildness of the season as to begin pairing and nesting about Christmas. What has since become of them and their premature domestic arrangements? Saint Valentine has made a cruel example of them.

It has been proved by statistics that, at the present scale of decrease, the last wedding will be celebrated on our island soon after the year 2000 – little more than a century later than the posting of the last Valentine.

We bury and mourn for Saint Valentine to-day.

But who, unless there come repentance and reformation, will be left by the 14th of February 2089 to bury and drop a tear over the last bachelor or spinster?