Here’s a few thoughts on why St Valentine’s day gives us hope for a rebound in the US economy.

“Happy Valentines Day

A mate of mine has just got into terrible trouble because his Missus found the Tinder app on his phone. If you have Tinder on your phone and you are shacked up with someone, it’s not good news. Tinder is a hook up app – need I say more?

But interestingly, Valentine’s Day was a Roman version of Tinder. In fact, it was what every teenage Irish boy dreamed of when I was a young lad. If Carlsberg did days, it would be Juno Februarta– the Roman Valentine’s Day which fell on the 14th of the month. February comes from Februata which itself derives from the name of the Roman goddess “Febris”. This chick wasn’t any old Goddess. Febris in Latin means “fever” – but it was the fever of love, women, fertility and sex.

When you were struck down by “febris”, you became demeneed and could do whatever you liked, with whoever was around.

On the 14th of February 14 billets (small pieces of paper, each of which had the name of a teenage girl written on it) were put into a container. Teen-aged Roman boys would then choose one billet at random. The boy and the girl whose name was drawn would become a “couple,” joining in erotic games at feasts and parties celebrated throughout Rome. After the festival, they would remain sexual partners for the rest of the year. This custom was observed in the Roman Empire for centuries. These billets were the original Valentine’s cards.

This orgy of indiscriminate, teenage licentiousness was triggered by the coming of Spring, the pagan time for fertility when  nature turns its back on the harsh winter and celebrates the coming of longer days, warmer weather and new life.

Of course such a debauched, bacchanalian feast freaked out the up-tight Christian Church, which knew it couldn’t stop the natural urges of the punters but realized that it had to, at least, disguise the origins of Juno Februata. So what did it do?

The church, once it converted the masses, chose its most sanctimonious saint and replaced the lascivious Juno with the martyred St Valentine who was, needless to say, chaste and virtuous.

However, the people never forgot Juno, nor Febris and the uncontrollable lust associated with February 14th which signalled a mood change, the up-beat arrival of Spring and the end of the darkness of the long winter.

In the global economy, we too have had an exceptionally long and harsh winter. Weather-wise, the US has frozen up, while in Europe we have been submerged. These factors have weighted heavily on economic output because, despite all our technology, like the Romans, our moods are still affected, to a much leeser extent, by the weather.

It remains to be seen whether we go back to our heathen roots and respond to this deep winter and the associated weak data with a Tinderesque outburst of spontaneity in February and embrace hedonism as we move on to the next big pagan festival of Mardi Gras in March.

For the moment the winter weather is having the same effect on us as it did the Romans: it is subduing us.”

 

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