- Parent Category: Upper-Intermediate Skill Builders
- Category: Upper-Intermediate Skill Builders: Listening
- Written by Chris Cotter
Hallmark Holidays: Although many people view these celebrations negatively, an equal number of people have positive opinions. On the negative side, hallmark holidays don't really celebrate an important event, and only exist for companies to make a lot of money. On the positive side, the term describes the perfect holiday in which family, friends, and fun come first. Everyday problems, worries, and stress can be put aside. Valentine's Day usually gets labeled a hallmark holiday, but both positive and negative arguments have equal merit.
More than one billion cards get sent each Valentine's Day. Then there are chocolates, flowers, engagement rings, romantic dinners, and so on. Much of the commercialization can be traced back to the 19th century when printing technology improved to cheaply mass-produce greeting cards. Yet even before that, the holiday with cards and gifts had begun to grow quite popular in the 1700s. People of all social classes regularly exchanged handwritten notes and tokens of affection on the day. Yet even in the 1700s, Valentine's Day was considered an old holiday. Two hundred years earlier, Shakespeare mentioned it in Hamlet, and the first Valentine's Day card still in existence was written around in 1415. But we can follow the holiday much further back to the Roman Empire!
Valentine's Day originated from a Roman festival called "Lupercalia," which was held in mid-February every year. The celebration purified new life in the spring. Around the third century A.D., the holiday became associated with Saint Valentine, although it isn't exactly clear how. There are three possible stories about the priest Valentine who later became a saint, but no one knows which story gave rise to the holiday.
One theory states that Emperor Claudius II executed Valentine. The Emperor had proclaimed marriage illegal for young men, because he realized that unmarried soldiers fought better. Married men worried about their wives and children, of course! With the decree, the Emperor hoped to increase the size and effectiveness of his army. The law was unjust, though, and Valentine continued to marry couples in secret -- until Claudius found out, and put the priest to death.
In another theory, the Emperor executed Valentine, too. But the priest had helped prisoners escape the horrible conditions of Roman prisons, where torture and beatings were common.
An imprisoned Valentine fell in love with the jailor's daughter in the final theory He wrote a letter to her, the very first Valentine's Day message, which he signed as we do today: "From your Valentine."
Whichever theory is correct, each story has heroic and romantic connotations. As a result, the holiday has grown increasingly popular through the centuries. It's also more meaningful than the naysayers believe. And although Valentine's Day has become quite commercial, it still contains an important aspect shared by all of the best holidays: time spent thinking of and being with the one you love.
Step 1: Listen to the article, which is almost five minutes and thirty seconds long. Listen only, and don't worry about understanding everything.
Step 2: Listen once more, and try to understand the general information of each paragraph. In your head, explain a paragraph's main idea in one or two sentences. Write your paragraph summaries after you have listened to the whole article. Listen again, check your answers, and compare your answers with a partner.
Step 3: Look at the article, which has missing vocabulary words. Try to write any words that you remember from the listening. Listen once more, and write the missing words.
Step 4: Read the article, and look up any unknown words. Now listen again. Can you understand more?
Step 5: Listen! Listen! Listen! Listen to the article on the train or in your free time. Each time you listen, you will slowly improve!