Romance and decimal currency

posted in: Life and things | 0

It was Valentine’s Day a few days ago and naturally, in these days of spend til you drop, it has become a commercial success.

The origins of Valentine’s Day are not entirely clear, and there are several theories about how this romantic holiday came to be. One popular belief is that Valentine’s Day has its roots in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated in mid-February. Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and also to the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. That’s the theory I like the best.

Another theory suggests that Valentine’s Day is associated with the Christian martyr St. Valentine. According to one legend, during the Roman Empire, Emperor Claudius II, believing that single men made better soldiers, outlawed marriages for young men. St. Valentine, a Christian priest, defied this decree and continued to perform marriages for young couples in secret. He was eventually arrested and executed on February 14th, around the year 269 AD.

Yet another legend suggests that St. Valentine might have sent the first “Valentine” greeting himself. While in prison, he allegedly sent a note to a young girl he had fallen in love with, signing it “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still used today.

The romantic associations with Valentine’s Day began to gain popularity in the Middle Ages. By the 14th century, the day was widely linked to romantic love, and the tradition of exchanging love notes and tokens started to emerge. Over time, Valentine’s Day evolved into the celebration of love and affection that we recognize today.

Thankfully, it’s not a public holiday. However, it’s one of the biggest days of the year for florists and anybody who sells boxes of chocolate and teddy bears. And champagne.

I’ve occasional lapsed and bought the significant other a V Day card – but not often. However, there was this once… Back at the beginning of the century I was a member of a large team working on a new computer system for  a very large company. It was a great team. We were expected to work hard and do a superlative job – but we also had a lot of fun. Valentine’s Day arrived and the boss, a middle-aged man, was heard to remark that he’d never had a Valentine’s Day card. Oh really? We saw that as an invitation for a bit of mischief. A couple of us rushed out to the nearest newsagent and bought up a wad of Valentine’s Day cards, the soppier the better. These were secretly distributed to team members, who wrote on them and surreptitiously dropped them on the boss’s desk during the course of the day.

Watching his reactions as he found each successive card was priceless. (He enjoyed it as much as we did.)

But a much more important event occurred on Valentine’s Day in 1966 – at least in Australia.

In 1966 I had not long started at a new school for my last two years of high school education. We couldn’t wait for 14th February. We’d seen the ads, read about the change, seen the pictures of the coins. But it’s different when it happens, isn’t it? At morning break we all hurried off to the school tuck shop to buy things so we could see the new money. One of the great things about the change in currency was that the Government saw this as an opportunity to introduce something truly Australian into our world so while the coins still had Queenie on the front, the designs on the back were all of Australian native animals. The designs are marvellous; the feather glider, echidna, platypus, all in rarely seen poses. The kangaroo that had been on the penny and ha’penny coin was shifted to the obverse of the one dollar note, now defunct. All other notes had the Queen on the front an eminent Australians on the back.

The copper coins – 1 and 2 cents, and the penny and half-penny coins they replaced

We turned the coins over, compared them to the old ones, talked and discussed. The general consensus back then was that it was a bit like Monopoly money; not quite real and a bit garish in comparison to the staid, conservative pounds, shillings and pence. But time heals all and we quickly became accustomed to our new coins and notes. The transition was fast and by and large painless because it was well planned and well managed. Congratulations, Australia.

Ah, the memories.

And while I’ve got you, to help you find a book to celebrate read an ebook week, you can find my entire collection at a promotional price of 50% off at Smashwords from March 3-9! Find my books and many more at

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