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VALENTINE’S DAY CELEBRATES LOVE & ROMANCE
Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love in many countries. While it may be most popular in the United States, Great Britain, Canada and Australia, countries as diverse as Argentina, Mexico, France and South Korea also celebrate on February 14th. In fact, in The Philippines, it is the most popular wedding anniversary. Let’s look at the history of Valentine’s Day and how it is celebrated around the globe.
HOW VALENTINE’S DAY GOT ITS NAME
The holiday is named after St. Valentine, but the story of this day’s patron and how it came about is quite mysterious. What is known is that the month of February has been dedicated to romance since the days of the Roman Empire, and the day we now celebrate has many traditions from both Christianity and Roman history.
The Catholic Church recognizes 3 saints with the name Valentine. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Still others insist that it was Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop, who was the true namesake of the holiday. He, too, was beheaded by Claudius II outside Rome.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl—possibly his jailor’s daughter—who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and—most importantly—romantic figure. His popularity in England and France was solidified in the Middle Ages.
THE ORIGINS OF VALENTINE’S DAY
Despite the religious beginnings of the holiday, the celebration of Valentine’s Day can be traced to Pagan traditions. While many assume that February 14th commemorates the birth or death of St. Valentine, it is more likely that Christians placed the holiday in the middle of February to discourage the practice of the Pagan holiday Lupercalia, which was celebrated on the Ides of February.
This festival was a fertility celebration, and during the festival of Lupercalia, Roman priests would sacrifice a goat. In the evening, the young women in the village would place their names in an urn, and the bachelor men would select a name randomly from the urn. The evening would then be ended by marriages between the matched couples.
The festival was outlawed in the 5th century by Pope Gelasius as being “un-Christian.” He then declared February 14th as a feast day for St. Valentine. While the original declaration was not associated with love, during the Middle Ages, people started using the day to celebrate romance, as it was thought to be the first day of mating season for birds.
The poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first major figure to recognize and declare February 14th as a day of romance in his poem “Parliament of Foules.” While Valentine’s greetings were popular throughout the Middle Ages, the first written Valentine was not recorded until after the year 1400. It is now a tradition to send your significant other a Valentine’s Day card, which you can do for free with CircleIt.
MODERN DAY VALENTINE’S CELEBRATIONS
Cards are still one of the most popular Valentine’s Day traditions, with over 145 million cards sent in the United States alone each year. Other traditional gifts include flowers (particularly roses) and candy.
In the United Kingdom, cards and flowers are also traditionally used, and it is known as one of the busiest days for restaurants. In Norfolk County, a particularly lavish celebration is held, with gifts being brought by “Jack Valentine”, who is a character like Santa Claus.
Interestingly, in South Korea, February 14th is known as a day for men to be pampered, with women getting their turn on March 15th on what is known as “White Day.”
In Japan, Valentine’s Day is also male-centric, with chocolates being the main gift of choice. However, it is not only significant others that are expecting the sweet gift. Male friends, co-workers and family members are also included in this tradition.
As we mentioned earlier, Valentine’s Day is the most popular wedding anniversary in The Philippines. This is due in part to a continuation of the pre-Valentine’s Day Pagan tradition of mass weddings being held on that day.
In the country of Estonia, a different tradition is celebrated. The day is called Sobrapaev, which means “Friendship Day”. Instead of celebrating the love of a significant other, Estonians go out with friends for dinners, drinks and dancing.
In Taiwan, flowers are the most popular Valentine’s Day gift, and there is special significance to the roses given on that day. If you receive red roses (of any quantity), the message is “you are my one and only.” If you receive 99 roses, it means “I will love you forever”. If you are looking to get married, be sure that you receive 108 roses, as that number means “will you marry me?”