Valentine's Day: the awful truth

'Can't Buy Me Love,' sang the Beatles in 1964. If only Valentine's Day had the same purity...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Brits blew £40 million on flowers for the 'special' day last year. It goes beyond the odd red rose - nowadays it's fluffy teddies, love hearts and saucy underwear too. A cosy meal out? Expect to pay over the odds, only to have your style cramped by a bad violinist and a couple of smooching hunny-bunnies at the next table. What happened to romantic (and free) winter walks?

The tradition started warmly enough: popular legend has it that St Valentine was a Roman who married young couples, despite a decree forbidding it. Executed for his crime on 14 February, he became the patron saint of lovers.

Brits have commemorated him since the 17th century, but his day has been increasingly hijacked by hordes of Cupids and saucy little devils. Indeed, vapid commercialism has all but killed off the romance - a survey last year found that 72% of us believe Valentine's Day has lost its meaning.

Of course, that didn't stop us sending a billion cards last year, and sales of pampering products rocketed by 73%. Still, if you're writhing under the pressure of displaying your private feelings in public, spare a thought for the Chinese. Couples in Shanghai have been known to go under the knife in the run-up to Valentine's to have matching nose jobs. Chin-chin!

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