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Will you be my Valentine
(Reprinted from The Chipping Norton News)

On 14 February each year millions of cards, flowers and tokens of love and affection are sent and received with varying degrees of pleasure, relief and amusement. But why do we do this and who was St Valentine anyway There are at least three different St Valentines mentioned in early religious texts listed under the date of February 14th. One was a priest in Rome and another the bishop of Terni, both living in the later half of the third century. The third St Valentine, together with a group of followers, suffered martyrdom in Africa. It is not likely therefore that romance played a big part in their lives. It is more certain that the actual date of 14 February is significant. The popular customs associated with St Valentines day almost certainly have their origins in England and France during the Middle Ages when it was thought that on that date the birds began their spring courtship, prior to mating. In Chaucers Parliament of Foules he says: For this was sent on Valentynes Day, when every foul cometh there to choose his mate. For this reason, the day was looked on as specially consecrated to lovers, who would address each other as their Valentines and the giving and receiving of tokens became popular. Chipping Norton had for many years its own Valentines day custom, when local children ran up and down the streets singing a refrain to householders and shopkeepers Ill be yours if youll be mine, please to give us a Valentine. At which the residents would throw down sweets and pennies, some of which were heated on shovels and warmed the childrens hands. Unfortunately, the custom was ended in 1953 and the BBC actually sent a film crew to record the event. One of the reasons given was that the children were absent from school on St Valentines day and there was some concern that it encouraged children to beg.

Catching pennies on a snowy Valentines Day in 1953
when it was still safe to stand in the middle of New Street!
(This picture and the Early Valentine Card above were
kindly provided by CN Museum of Local History)

More recently the Chipping Norton News received a beautiful Valentine poem - anonymously. We are still looking for the happy couple. There are surely some clues in the poem. Can you help identify them