This day begun as a liturgical celebration of a Christian Saint, Valentinus, and has now evolved as a celebration of love. The evolution was first associated with romantic love during the era of Chaucer of Middle Ages England.
In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys were given to lovers as a romantic symbol of commitment and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart on Valentine’s Day.
In 18th century England, the presentation of flowers, offering of confectionery and greeting cards became fashionable. By the 19th century, the handwritten Valentine’s cards included symbols of heart shaped outline, doves, of course the winged cupid, and had became a feast of romantic expression.
Many would argue that the original romantic handwritten cards have given way to mass-produced greeting cards, which had lost the true meaning of love. The United States Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million Valentine’s cards are sent in the US.
In the 1980’s, even the diamond industry wanted a piece of the “Love Pie”, as the jewellers have promoted Valentine’s Day as an occasion to express your love with the ultimate “girl’s best friend.” No wonder the average spending on this day has increased every year in the US, from $108 (RM447) a person in 2010 to $131 (RM543) in 2013!
So, has Valentine’s Day evolved so much in the 21st century that it “lost that loving feelings?” I was resisting the exploitation and commercialisation of love until this morning when I received a card from a secret Valentine (Identity undisclosed, of course!) bearing the quote from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
“Doubt thou the Stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar. But never doubt I love!” I melted, I was mesmerized and I was in love again!
With this in mind, I would like to address an email from a reader, who has self-doubt. I hope the article can re-ignite that sparkle of love on Valentine’s Day!
Dear Dr. G.
I am Bernard and I am 22 years old.
I have been going out with my girl friend for the last six months and things are going well.
I think she likes me a lot, but thinks I am too conservative and not very expressive.
We have been holding hands and of course the hugs and occasional peck on the cheek. I really want to go beyond that but a bit too shy. To be truthful, I actually don't know what to do next. Do you have any tips on what to do next?
I also hear some food will make us better lovers. Is there scientific basis to this?
I am a bit lost, but yet excited about the coming Valentine’s Day to express my love.
Besides cards, Chocolates and flowers, Can I do anything else?
“They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything” said Bil Keane, The American Cartoonist notable for his long-running newspaper comic, The Family Circus. Of course, this works well at early stages of courtship.
In fact, the health benefits of hugs are well reported. According to research from
psychologists at DePauw University, the simple acts of hugging will trigger the release of “the cuddle hormone”, oxytocin, which promotes the feeling of devotion, trust and social bonding. The study from North Carolina also revealed the embracing hugs may also warm the heart by reducing the blood pressure and contractility. Naturally, warm hugs also alleviate fear and relieve stress.
Naturally, to be a good lover, one needs to progress beyond handholding and hugs. Judy Garland once mentioned: “For it was not into my ear you whisper, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” The art and health benefits of passionate kissing have also been scrutinized in the scientific world.
We have all been there, on one hand, a kiss can be awkward, disappointing or outright boring. On the other hand, a juicy passionate smooch can be intense, magnificent or even life changing.
Like warm hugs, kisses can induce the release of the “feel good hormones” such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. This will in turn dilate the blood vessels and noted to be protective to the heart. Even the dentists would recommend kissing, which induces extra saliva to wash away the bacteria off the teeth.
The Professor from University of Louisville, Bryant Stamford, even went further suggesting a real passionate snog will burn two calories a minute and doubling the metabolic rates. The exercise of the facial muscle apparently will keep the kisser looking younger, and of course feeling happier.
The creator of the Peanuts cartoon characters, Charles M Schulz once said: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt”. With the upcoming Valentine’s Day, apart from chocolates, what else can help to bring out the love beast hidden inside us?
Many clinicians and dieticians believe what we eat can directly influence the bodily functions, including sexual health for many centuries.
The English herbalist from 17th century, Nicholas Culpepper described asparagus as the food that can “stirs up lust in men and women”, and the 19th century French bridegrooms were also serve such treats, at their prenuptial dinners.
Modern Scientists believe it may be the richness in folic acid that is said to boost the histamine production, essential for orgasmic senses in both sexes.
The Aztecs called Avocado ahuacuati or “testicles tree, and the Spanish priests were forbidden to take the fruit, as it was described as “obscenely sexual”.
Apart from folic acid, avocado is rich in Vitamin B6 and Potassium, believed to be able to boost arousal. On the other hand, the simple garlic also is known to have allicin, an ingredient that will promote blood flow. I guess that explains a lot about the Frenchmen.
And finally, the king of natural aphrodisiacs, chocolate, is demonstrated to contain anandamide and phehylethlamine (PEA), are responsible to release dopamine in the brain responsible for orgasmic peaks. PEA was studied and believed to help inducing the feeling of excitement, attraction and euphoria. If that is not an aphrodisiac, nothing is!
Of course, the hugs and kisses, the passion food of asparagus, garlic, avocado and chocolate will help most to be a better lover. With the enhanced self confidence and charm, I hope Bernard will “see with his mind” as from Midsummer Night’s
Dream: “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged
Cupid painted blind”.
Happy Valentine’s Day!