Despite the fact that St. Valentine’s Day has only recently been known in the Czech Republic, it is continually increasing in popularity, and the familiar merchandise which accompanies it is gradually appearing more and more in shop windows. As a consequence there has been lively debate regarding whether or not companies and retailers exploit the festival in modern times for commercial purposes, thus tarnishing its true meaning for many people.
As shops all over Prague began their annual displays of oversized cuddly toys and heart-adorned greetings cards, it is plain for all to see that Valentine’s Day – called Valentyn in Czech – is once again upon us. Although a well-founded tradition in Britain and other European countries, it is very much a new phenomenon in the Czech Republic, having gained popularity only within around the past ten years. How do the Czechs view this holiday?
Bishop in Prague: “I think it’s a pretty significant day, as it is the feast of love, and love is one of the most important things in the Christian faith after all, so certainly the significance is pretty big. A tradition is beginning on this day that we celebrate a mass, for all people of goodwill, and all people who love somebody else, in the Basilica in Vysehrad. It’s not easy to say what the predominant opinion is. Certainly the commercial one is more common in our very atheistic society.”
Young woman 1: “I think it’s only commercial. It’s very important for business, for shops with flowers.”
Young man 1: “It’s more about business for me. I think it doesn’t have any tradition here and that’s why it’s a little bit foreign for us.”
Young woman 2: “Everybody’s buying something just because its being advertised everywhere.”
Older man 1: “I think it isn’t our national holiday and its mainly good business.”
Middle aged man 1: “I just think it started as a commercial project it wasn’t non-commercial from the beginning.”
Yet, despite debate regarding modern society’s business-like approach to St. Valentine’s Day in the Czech Republic and indeed all over the world, it remains for many a day specifically devoted to one’s loved ones, something which no amount of commercialism can erase. This is definitely true for me, personally, and I see the opinions of people asked in this survey as rather cynical.
Bonus: Did you know that the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Prague’s Vysehrad may be home to a relic of the famous saint? Four years ago the Royal Collegiate Chapter of Saints Peter and Paul uncovered several forgotten Baroque shrines in its depository; it was surprised to find one relic – a complete shoulder blade – had belonged to none other than the patron saint of lovers. Last year, the church held a mass in St. Valentine’s honor – displaying the relic – and this year it’s doing the same.