Saint Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it is not a holiday in most of them.
St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14, and added to later martyrologies. A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell. Today, Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine’s Day, albeit on July 6 and July 30, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni). In Brazil, the Dia de São Valentim is recognized on June 12.
The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines“). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
St Valentine baptizing St Lucilla, Jacopo Bassano
Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae). Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 496 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. The relics of Saint Valentine were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which “remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV“. The flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Other relics are found at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland. Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni (Basilica di San Valentino). Jack B. Oruch states that “abstracts of the acts of the two saints were in nearly every church and monastery of Europe.” The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him. Saint Valentine’s head was preserved in the abbey of New Minster, Winchester, and venerated.
February 14 is celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day in various Christian denominations; it has, for example, the rank of ‘commemoration’ in the calendar of saints in the Anglican Communion. In addition, the feast day of Saint Valentine is also given in the calendar of saints of the Lutheran Church. However, in the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.” The feast day is still celebrated in Balzan (Malta) where relics of the saint are claimed to be found, and also throughout the world by Traditionalist Catholics who follow the older, pre-Second Vatican Council calendar. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on July 6, in which Saint Valentine, the Roman presbyter, is honoured; furthermore, the Eastern Orthodox Church obsesrves the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30.
J.C. Cooper, in The Dictionary of Christianity, writes that Saint Valentine was “a priest of Rome who was imprisoned for succouring persecuted Christians.” Contemporary records of Saint Valentine were most probably destroyed during this Diocletianic Persecution in the early 4th century. In the 5th or 6th century, a work called Passio Marii et Marthae published a story of martyrdom for Saint Valentine of Rome, perhaps by borrowing tortures that happened to other saints, as was usual in the literature of that period. The same events are also found in Bede’s Martyrology, which was compiled in the 8th century. It states that Saint Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized. A later Passio repeated the legend, adding that Pope Julius I built a church over his sepulcre (it is a confusion with a 4th-century tribune called Valentino who donated land to build a church at a time when Julius was a Pope). The legend was picked up as fact by later martyrologies, starting by Bede‘s martyrology in the 8th century. It was repeated in the 13th century, in Legenda Aurea. The book expounded briefly the Early Medieval acta of several Saint Valentines, and this legend was assigned to the Valentine under February 14.
There is an additional embellishment to The Golden Legend, which according to Henry Ansgar Kelly, was added centuries later, and widely repeated. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first “valentine” card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as “Your Valentine.” The expression “From your Valentine” was later adopted by modern Valentine letters. This legend has been published by both American Greetings and The History Channel.
John Foxe, an English historian, as well as the Order of Carmelites, state that Saint Valentine was buried in the Church of Praxedes in Rome, located near the cemetery of Saint Hippolytus. This order says that according to legend, “Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship.”
Anther embellishment is that Saint Valentine would have performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. However, this supposed marriage ban was never issued, and in fact Claudius II told his soldiers to take two or three women for themselves after his victory over the Goths.
According to legend, in order “to remind these men of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment”, giving them to these soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on St. Valentine’s Day.
Saint Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring, customarily worn on the hands of Christian bishops with an image of Cupid engraved in it, a recognizable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire; Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask him to perform marriage for them. Probably because of the association with Saint Valentine, amethyst has become the birthstone of February, and its thought to attract love.
While the European folk traditions connected with Saint Valentine and St. Valentine’s Day have become marginalized by the modern Anglo-American customs connecting the day with romantic love, there are some remaining associations connecting the saint with the advent of spring.
While the custom of sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts originated in the UK, Valentine’s Day still remains connected with various regional customs in England. In Norfolk, a character called ‘Jack’ Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children. Although he was leaving treats, many children were scared of this mystical person.
In Slovenia, Saint Valentine or Zdravko was one of the saints of spring, the saint of good health and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims. A proverb says that “Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots”. Plants and flowers start to grow on this day. It has been celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards and in the fields commences. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day. Another proverb says “Valentin – prvi spomladin” (“Valentine — the first spring saint”), as in some places (especially White Carniola), Saint Valentine marks the beginning of spring. Valentine’s Day has only recently been celebrated as the day of love. The day of love was traditionally March 12, the Saint Gregory‘s day, or February 22, Saint Vincent’s Day. The patron of love was Saint Anthony, whose day has been celebrated on June 13.
Connection with romantic love
There is no evidence of any link between St. Valentine’s Day and the rites of the ancient Roman festival, despite many claims by many authors.[notes 1] The celebration of Saint Valentine did not have any romantic connotations until Chaucer‘s poetry about “Valentines” in the 14th century.
Popular modern sources claim links to unspecified Greco-Roman February holidays alleged to be devoted to fertility and love to St. Valentine’s Day, but prior to Chaucer in the 14th century, there were no links between the Saints named Valentinus and romantic love. Earlier links as described above were focused on sacrifice rather than romantic love. In the ancient Athenian calendar the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera.
In Ancient Rome, Lupercalia, observed February 13–15, was an archaic rite connected to fertility. Lupercalia was a festival local to the city of Rome. The more general Festival of Juno Februa, meaning “Juno the purifier “or “the chaste Juno”, was celebrated on February 13–14. Pope Gelasius I (492–496) abolished Lupercalia. Some researchers have theorized that Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with the celebration of the Purification of Mary in February 14 and claim a connection to the 14th century’s connotations of romantic love, but there is no historical indication that he ever intended such a thing.[notes 2] Also, the dates don’t fit because at the time of Gelasius I the feast was only celebrated in Jerusalem, and it was on February 14 only because Jerusalem placed the Nativity on January 6.[notes 3] Although it was called “Purification of Mary”, it dealt mainly with the presentation of Jesus at the temple. The Jerusalem’s Purification of Mary on February 14 became the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple on February 2 as it was introduced to Rome and other places in the sixth century, after Gelasius I’s time.
Alban Butler in his Lifes of the Principal Saints (1756–1759) claimed without proof that men and women in Lupercalia drew names from a jar to make couples, and that modern Valentine’s letters originated from this custom. In reality, this practice originated in the Middle Ages, with no link to Lupercalia, with men drawing the names of girls at random to couple with them. This custom was combated by priests, for example by Frances de Sales around 1600, apparently by replacing it with a religious custom of girls drawing the names of apostles from the altar. However, this religious custom is recorded as soon as the 13th century in the life of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, so it could have a different origin.
Chaucer’s love birds
Jack B. Oruch writes that the first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer wrote:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
["For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."]
This poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. A treaty providing for a marriage was signed on May 2, 1381. (When they were married eight months later, they were each only 15 years old).
Readers have uncritically assumed that Chaucer was referring to February 14 as Valentine’s Day; however, mid-February is an unlikely time for birds to be mating in England. Henry Ansgar Kelly has pointed out that Chaucer could be referring to May 3, the celebration in the liturgical calendar of Valentine of Genoa, an early bishop of Genoa who died around AD 307. Jack B. Oruch says that date for the start of Spring has changed since Chaucer’s time because of the precession of equinoxes and the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. The date would correspond to the modern 23 February, a time when some birds have started mating and nesting in England.
Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules is set in a fictional context of an old tradition, but in fact there was no such tradition before Chaucer. The speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among 18th-century antiquaries, notably Alban Butler, the author of Butler’s Lives of Saints, and have been perpetuated even by respectable modern scholars. Most notably, “the idea that Valentine’s Day customs perpetuated those of the Roman Lupercalia has been accepted uncritically and repeated, in various forms, up to the present”.
There were three other authors who made poems about birds mating in St. Valentine’s Day around the same years: Otton de Grandson from Savoy, John Gower from England, and a knight called Pardo from Valencia. Chaucer most probably predated all of them, but, due to the difficulty of dating medieval works, we can’t know for sure who of the four had the idea first and influenced the others.
Medieval period and the English Renaissance
Using the language of the law courts for the rituals of courtly love, a “High Court of Love” was probably established by princess Isabel of Bavaria in Paris in 1400. It was founded on 6 January, the festivity of a Bavarian Saint Valentin, with The Charter of the Court of Love. The court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. Judges were selected by women on the basis of a poetry reading. It was probably based on the poems of Grandson, and not on the poems of Chaucer. It is possible that the actual Court never existed and that it was all an invention of the princess.
The earliest surviving valentine is a 15th-century rondeau written by Charles, Duke of Orléans to his wife, which commences.
Je suis desja d’amour tanné
Ma tres doulce Valentinée…
—Charles d’Orléans, Rondeau VI, lines 1–2
At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415.
The earliest surviving valentines in English appear to be those in the Paston Letters, written in 1477 by Margery Brewes to her future husband John Paston “my right well-beloved Valentine”.
Valentine’s Day is mentioned ruefully by Ophelia in Hamlet (1600–1601):
To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5
John Donne used the legend of the marriage of the birds as the starting point for his epithalamion celebrating the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England, and Frederick V, Elector Palatine, on Valentine’s Day:
Hayle Bishop Valentine whose day this is
All the Ayre is thy Diocese
And all the chirping Queristers
And other birds ar thy parishioners
Thou marryest every yeare
The Lyrick Lark, and the graue whispering Doue,
The Sparrow that neglects his life for loue,
The houshold bird with the redd stomacher
Thou makst the Blackbird speede as soone,
As doth the Goldfinch, or the Halcyon
The Husband Cock lookes out and soone is spedd
And meets his wife, which brings her feather-bed.
This day more cheerfully than ever shine
This day which might inflame thy selfe old Valentine.
—John Donne, Epithalamion Vpon Frederick Count Palatine and the Lady Elizabeth marryed on St. Valentines day
The verse Roses are red echoes conventions traceable as far back as Edmund Spenser‘s epic The Faerie Queene (1590):
She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.
The modern cliché Valentine’s Day poem can be found in the collection of English nursery rhymes Gammer Gurton’s Garland (1784):
The rose is red, the violet’s blue,
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou’d be you.
Valentine’s Day postcard, circa 1910
In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which contained scores of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own. Printers had already begun producing a limited number of cards with verses and sketches, called “mechanical valentines,” and a reduction in postal rates in the next century ushered in the less personal but easier practice of mailing Valentines. That, in turn, made it possible for the first time to exchange cards anonymously, which is taken as the reason for the sudden appearance of racy verse in an era otherwise prudishly Victorian.
Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories. Fancy Valentines were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid-19th century. In 1835, 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in Britain, despite postage being expensive. Laura Seddon Greeting Card Collection from the Manchester Metropolitan University gathers 450 Valentine’s Day cards dating from the early nineteenth century, printed by the major publishers of the day. The collection is cataloged in Laura Seddon’s book Victorian Valentines (1996).
In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland (1828–1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father operated a large book and stationery store, but Howland took her inspiration from an English Valentine she had received from a business associate of her father. Intrigued with the idea of making similar Valentines, Howland began her business by importing paper lace and floral decorations from England. A writer in Graham’s American Monthly observed in 1849, “Saint Valentine’s Day … is becoming, nay it has become, a national holyday.” The English practice of sending Valentine’s cards was established enough to feature as a plot device in Elizabeth Gaskell‘s Mr. Harrison’s Confessions (1851): “I burst in with my explanations: ‘The valentine I know nothing about.’ ‘It is in your handwriting’, said he coldly.” Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual “Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary”.
Child dressed in Valentine’s Day-themed clothing.
Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. In the UK, just under half of the population spend money on their Valentines and around 1.3 billion pounds are spent yearly on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts, with an estimated 25 million cards being sent. The mid-19th century Valentine’s Day trade was a harbinger of further commercialized holidays in the United States to follow.
In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts. Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped box. In the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine’s Day as an occasion for giving jewelry.
The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. Half of those valentines are given to family members other than husband or wife, usually to children. When you include the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines.
The rise of Internet popularity at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions. Millions of people use, every year, digital means of creating and sending Valentine’s Day greeting messages such as e-cards, love coupons or printable greeting cards. An estimated 15 million e-valentines were sent in 2010. Valentine’s Day is considered by some to be a Hallmark holiday due to its commercialization.
Valentine’s Day red roses
In the modern era, liturigically, the Anglican Church has a service for St. Valentine’s Day (the Feast of St. Valentine), which includes the optional rite of the renewal of marriage vows.
Antique and vintage Valentine cards, 1850–1950
- Valentines of the mid-19th and early 20th centuries
Esther Howland Valentine, circa 1850: “Weddings now are all the go, Will you marry me or no”?
Handwritten poem, “To Susanna” dated Valentine’s Day, 1850 (Cork, Ireland)
Comic Valentine, mid-19th century: “R stands for rod, which can give a smart crack, And ought to be used For a day on your back.”
Valentine card, 1862: “My dearest Miss, I send thee a kiss” addressed to Miss Jenny Lane of Crostwight Hall, Smallburgh, Norfolk.
Folk art Valentine and envelope dated 1875 addressed to Clara Dunn of Newfield, New Jersey
Whitney Valentine, 1887; Howland sold her New England Valentine Company to the George C. Whitney Company in 1881
Seascape Valentine, date unknown
- Postcards, “pop-ups”, and mechanical Valentines, circa 1900–1930
Buster Brown Valentine postcard by Richard Felton Outcault, early years of the 20th century
Postcard by Nister, circa 1906
Valentine postcard, circa 1900–1910
A tiny 2-inch pop-up Valentine, circa 1920
Football-playing Disney-like rat and bulldog are set in motion by the pull-tab on the right, circa 1920
A grommet affixed to the center of the card permits the dog’s eyes to glance side-to-side when the blue bow is moved
Rocking horse and rider, circa 1920–1930
- Children’s Valentines
Children’s Valentine, 1940–1950
Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960
Valentine’s Day customs developed in early modern England and spread throughout the Anglosphere in the 19th century.
In the later 20th and early 21st centuries, these customs have also spread to other countries along with other aspects of American pop culture, but its impact so far has been rather more limited than that of Halloween, or that of US pop-culture inspired aspects of Christmas (such as Santa Claus).
Tree at Valentine’s Day with hearts
Due to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in some East Asian countries with Chinese and South Koreans spending the most money on Valentine’s gifts.
In China, the common situation is the man gives chocolate, flowers or both to the woman that he loves. In Chinese, Valentine’s Day is called lovers’ festival (simplified Chinese: 情人节; traditional Chinese: 情人節; pinyin: qíng rén jié). The so-called “Chinese Valentine’s Day” is the Qixi Festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. It commemorates a day on which a legendary cowherder and weaving maid are allowed to be together. Valentine’s Day on February 14 is not celebrated because it is often too close to the Chinese New Year, which usually falls on either January or February. In Chinese culture, there is an older observance related to lovers, called “The Night of Sevens” (Chinese: 七夕; pinyin: Qi Xi). According to the legend, the Cowherd star and the Weaver Maid star are normally separated by the Milky Way (silvery river) but are allowed to meet by crossing it on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar.
In recent years, celebrating White Day has also become fashionable among some young people.
Finland and Estonia
In Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä which translates into “Friend’s Day”. As the name indicates, this day is more about remembering all your friends, not only your loved ones. In Estonia Valentine’s Day is called sõbrapäev, which has the same meaning.
In France, a traditionally Catholic country, Valentine’s Day is known simply as “Saint Valentin“, and is celebrated in much the same way as other western countries.
St. Valentine’s Day, or Ημέρα του Αγίου Βαλεντίνου in Greek tradition was not associated with romantic love; In the Eastern Orthodox church there is another Saint who protects people who are in love, Hyacinth of Caesarea (feast day 3 July), but in contemporary Greece, this tradition has mostly been superseded by the “globalized” form of Valentine’s Day.
In India, in antiquity, there was a tradition of adoring Kamadeva, the lord of love; exemplificated by the erotic carvings in the Khajuraho Group of Monuments and by the writing of the Kamasutra treaty of lovemaking. This tradition was lost around the Middle Ages, when Kamadeva was no longer celebrated, and public displays of sexual affection became frowned upon. This repression of public affections persisted until the 1990s.
In the state of West Bengal, Saraswati Puja, a festival observed in early spring where Saraswati, the goddess of learning is worshiped; has often been seen as a Bengali version of Valentine’s Day; especially among the urban middle class youth.
Valentine’s Day celebrations didn’t catch on in India until around 1992. It was spread due to the programs in commercial TV channels, such as MTV, dedicated radio programs and love letter competitions, in addition to an economical liberalization that allowed the explosion of the valentine card industry. Economic liberalization also helped the Valentine card industry. The celebration has caused a sharp change on how people have been displaying their affection in public since the Middle Ages.
In modern times, Hindu and Islamic traditionalists have considered the holiday to be cultural contamination from the West, a result of the globalization in India. Asaram Bapu, the Hindu leader of the Sant Sri Asaramji Ashram has stated that “Those who celebrate ‘Valentine’s Day’ in the present manner, do in fact insult the saint himself; for they try to start a love-affair before their actual marriage by sending Valentine cards to one another. Had St. Valentine supported this system, he would not have solemnized the marriages in the first place.” Asaram Bapu promotes the alternative holiday of “Matri Pitri Pujan Diwas” (Parents Worship Day, literally “Day for Worship of Father and Mother”), which is already celebrated in the public schools of district Chhattishgarh. Shiv Sena and the Sangh Parivar have asked their followers to shun the holiday and the “public admission of love” because of them being “alien to Indian culture”. Although these protests are organized by political elites, the protesters themselves are middle-class Hindu men who fear that the globalization will destroy the traditions in their society: arranged marriages, Hindu joint families, full-time mothers, etc.
Despite these obstacles, Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly popular in India.
Valentine’s Day has been strongly criticized from a postcolonial perspective by intellectuals from the Indian left. The holiday is regarded as a front for “Western imperialism”, “neocolonialism“, and “the exploitation of working classes through commercialism by multinational corporations“. Studies have shown that Valentine’s Day promotes and exacerbates income inequality in India, and aids in the creation of a pseudo-westernized middle class. As a result, the working classes and rural poor become more disconnected socially, politically, and geographically from the hegemonic capitalist power structure. They also criticize mainstream media attacks on Indians opposed to Valentine’s Day as a form of demonization that is designed and derived to further the Valentine’s Day agenda. Right wing Hindu nationalists are also hostile. In February 2012 Subash Chouhan of the Bajrang Dal warned couples that “They cannot kiss or hug in public places. Our activists will beat them up”. He said “We are not against love, but we criticize vulgar exhibition of love at public places”.
In Iran, the Sepandarmazgan, or Esfandegan, is a festival where people express love towards their mothers and wives, and it is also a celebration of earth in ancient Persian culture. It has been progressively forgotten in favor of the Western celebration of Valentine’s Day. The Association of Iran’s Cultural and Natural Phenomena has been trying since 2006 to make Sepandarmazgan a national holiday on 17 February, in order to replace the Western holiday.
In Israel, the Jewish tradition of Tu B’Av has been revived and transformed into the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Av (usually in late August). In ancient times girls would wear white dresses and dance in the vineyards, where the boys would be waiting for them (Mishna Taanith end of Chapter 4). Today, Tu Be’av is celebrated as a second holiday of love by secular people (besides Saint Valentine’s Day), and it shares many of the customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day in western societies. In modern Israeli culture Tu Be’av is a popular day to pronounce love, propose marriage and give gifts like cards or flowers.
In Japan, Morozoff Ltd. introduced the holiday for the first time in 1936, when it ran an advertisement aimed at foreigners. Later in 1953 it began promoting the giving of heart-shaped chocolates; other Japanese confectionery companies followed suit thereafter. In 1958 the Isetan department store ran a “Valentine sale”. Further campaigns during the 1960s popularized the custom.
The custom that only women give chocolates to men appears to have originated from the translation error of a chocolate-company executive during the initial campaigns. In particular, office ladies give chocolate to their co-workers. Unlike western countries, gifts such as greeting cards, candies, flowers, or dinner dates are uncommon, and most of the activity about the gifts is about giving the right amount of chocolate to each person. Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during this time of the year.
Many women feel obliged to give chocolates to all male co-workers, except when the day falls on a Sunday, a holiday. This is known as giri-choko (義理チョコ), from giri (“obligation”) and choko, (“chocolate”), with unpopular co-workers receiving only “ultra-obligatory” chō-giri choko cheap chocolate. This contrasts with honmei-choko (本命チョコ, favorite chocolate), chocolate given to a loved one. Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as tomo-choko (友チョコ); from tomo meaning “friend”.
In the 1980s the Japanese National Confectionery Industry Association launched a successful campaign to make March 14 a “reply day”, where men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day, calling it White Day for the color of the chocolates being offered. A previous failed attempt to popularize this celebration had been done by a marshmallow manufacturer who wanted men to return marshmallows to women.
Men are expected to return gifts that are at least two or three times more valuable than the gifts received in Valentine’s Day. Not returning the gift is perceived as the man placing himself in a position of superiority, even if excuses are given. Returning a present of equal value is considered as a way to say that you are cutting the relationship. Originally only chocolate was given, but now the gifts of jewelry, accessories, clothing and lingerie are usual. According to the official website of White Day, the color white was chosen because it’s the color of purity, evoking “pure, sweet teen love”, and because it’s also the color of sugar. The initial name was “Ai ni Kotaeru White Day” (Answer Love on White Day).
In Japan, the romantic “date night” associated to Valentine’s Day is celebrated on Christmas Eve.
In a 2006 survey of people between 10 and 49 years of age in Japan, Oricon Style found the 1986 Sayuri Kokushō single “Valentine Kiss” to be the most popular Valentine’s Day song, even though it sold only 317,000 copies. The singles it beat in the ranking were number one selling “Love Love Love” from Dreams Come True (2,488,630 copies) and “Valentine’s Radio” from Yumi Matsutoya (1,606,780 copies). The final song in the top five was “My Funny Valentine” by Miles Davis.
In Japan, a slightly different version of 七夕 called Tanabata has been celebrated for centuries, on July 7 (Gregorian calendar). It has been considered by Westerners as similar to St. Valentine’s Day, but it’s not related to it, and its origins are completely different.
The Heart of the Milky Way, for Valentine’s Day
In some Latin American countries Valentine’s Day is known as “Día del Amor y la Amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship). For example Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, as well as others. It is also common to see people perform “acts of appreciation” for their friends. In Guatemala it is known as the “Día del Cariño” (Affection Day). In Brazil, the Dia dos Namorados (lit. “Lovers’ Day”, or “Boyfriends’/Girlfriends’ Day”) is celebrated on June 12, probably because that is the day before Saint Anthony’s day, known there as the marriage saint, when traditionally many single women perform popular rituals, called simpatias, in order to find a good husband or boyfriend. Couples exchange gifts, chocolates, cards and flower bouquets. The February 14 Valentine’s Day is not celebrated at all because it usually falls too little before or too little after the Brazilian Carnival — that can fall anywhere from early February to early March and lasts almost a week. Because of the absence of Valentine’s Day and due to the celebrations of the Carnivals, Brazil is a popular tourist spot during February for Western singles who want to get away from the holiday.
In most of Latin America the Día del amor y la amistad and the Amigo secreto (“Secret friend”) are quite popular and are usually celebrated together on the 14 February (one exception is Colombia, where it is celebrated on the third Saturday in September). The latter consists of randomly assigning to each participant a recipient who is to be given an anonymous gift (similar to the Christmas tradition of Secret Santa).
In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is called Araw ng mga Puso (“Hearts Day”), and is celebrated in much the same manner as in the West. It is usually marked by a steep increase in the price of flowers, particularly red roses.
In Portugal it is more commonly referred to as “Dia dos Namorados” (Lover’s Day / Day of the Enamoured).
In Romania, the traditional holiday for lovers is Dragobete, which is celebrated on February 24. It is named after a character from Romanian folklore who was supposed to be the son of Baba Dochia. Part of his name is the word drag (“dear”), which can also be found in the word dragoste (“love”). In recent years, Romania has also started celebrating Valentine’s Day, despite already having Dragobete as a traditional holiday. This has drawn backlash from several groups, institutions and nationalist organizations like Noua Dreaptǎ, who condemn Valentine’s Day for being superficial, commercialist and imported Western kitsch.
In Denmark and Norway, although February 14 is known as Valentinsdag, it is not celebrated to a large extent, but is largely imported from American culture, and some people take time to eat a romantic dinner with their partner, to send a card to a secret love or give a red rose to their loved one. The cut-flower industry in particular is still working on promoting the holiday. In Sweden it is called Alla hjärtans dag (“All Hearts’ Day”) and was launched in the 1960s by the flower industry’s commercial interests, and due to the influence of American culture. It is not an official holiday, but its celebration is recognized and sales of cosmetics and flowers for this holiday are only exceeded by those for Mother’s Day.
According to findings, Singaporeans are among the biggest spenders on Valentine’s Day, with 60% of Singaporeans indicating that they would spend between $100 and $500 during the season leading up to the holiday.
In South Korea, similar to Japan, women give chocolate to men on February 14, and men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14 (White Day). On April 14 (Black Day), those who did not receive anything on 14 February or March go to a Korean restaurant to eat black noodles (자장면 jajangmyeon) and “mourn” their single life. Koreans also celebrate Pepero Day on November 11, when young couples give each other Pepero cookies. The date ’11/11′ is intended to resemble the long shape of the cookie. The 14th of every month marks a love-related day in Korea, although most of them are obscure. From January to December: Candle Day, Valentine’s Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day. Korean women give a much higher amount of chocolate than Japanese women.
In Spain Valentine’s Day is known as “San Valentín” and is celebrated the same way as in the UK, although in Catalonia it is largely superseded by similar festivities of rose and/or book giving on La Diada de Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day).
In Taiwan, traditional Qixi Festival, Valentine’s Day and White Day are all celebrated.
In Wales, many people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day) on January 25 instead of (or as well as) Valentine’s Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers.
Conflict with Islamic countries and political parties
In the first part of the 21st century, the celebration of Valentine’s Day in Iran has been harshly criticized by Islamic Teachers who see the celebrations as opposed to Islamic culture. In 2011, the Iranian printing works owners’ union issued a directive banning the printing and distribution of any goods promoting the holiday, including cards, gifts and teddy bears. “Printing and producing any goods related to this day including posters, boxes and cards emblazoned with hearts or half-hearts, red roses and any activities promoting this day are banned … Outlets that violate this will be legally dealt with”, the union warned.
Islamic officials in Malaysia warned Muslims against celebrating Valentine’s Day, linking it with vice activities. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the celebration of romantic love was “not suitable” for Muslims. Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, head of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), which oversees the country’s Islamic policies said that a fatwa (ruling) issued by the country’s top clerics in 2005 noted that the day ‘is associated with elements of Christianity,’ and ‘we just cannot get involved with other religion’s worshipping rituals.’ Jakim officials planned to carry out a nationwide campaign called “Awas Jerat Valentine’s Day” (“Mind the Valentine’s Day Trap”), aimed at preventing Muslims from celebrating the day on 14 February 2011. Activities include conducting raids in hotels to stop young couples from having unlawful sex and distributing leaflets to Muslim university students warning them against the day.
On Valentine’s Day 2011, Malaysian religious authorities arrested more than 100 Muslim couples concerning the celebration ban. Some of them would be charged in the Shariah Court for defying the department’s ban against the celebration of Valentine’s Day.
The concept of Valentine’s Day was introduced into Pakistan during the late 1990s with special TV and radio programs. The Jamaat-e-Islami political party has called for the banning of Valentine’s Day celebration. Despite this, the celebration is becoming popular among urban youth and the florists expect to sell a great amount of flowers, especially red roses. The case is the same with card publishers.
In Saudi Arabia, in 2002 and 2008, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, because the day is considered a Christian holiday. This ban has created a black market for roses and wrapping paper. In 2012 the religious police arrested more than 140 Muslims for celebrating the holiday, and confiscated all red roses from flower shops. Muslims are not allowed to celebrate the holiday, and non-Muslims can celebrate only behind closed doors.
- Jump up ^ For example, one source claims incorrectly that “Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the 5th century by combining St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals.” Seipel, Arnie, The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day, Nation Public Radio, February 13, 2011
- Jump up ^ Ansgar, 1976, pp. 60–61. The replacement of Lupercalia with Saint Valentine’s celebration was suggested by researchers Kellog and Cox. Ansgar says “It is hardly credible, then, that Pope Gelasius could have introduced the feast of the Purification to counteract the Lupercalia, and in fact the historical records of his pontificate give no hint of such an action.”
- Jump up ^ Ansgar, 1976, pp. 60–61. This feast is celebrated 40 days after the Nativity. In Jerusalem the Nativity was celebrated on January 6, and this feast in February 14. But, in the West and even in Eastern places such as Antioch and Alexandria, Nativity was celebrated on December 25, and this Purification was not celebrated. When this feast was introduced to Rome, it was directly placed in February 2. Around that time, Jerusalem adopted the Nativity date of December 25 and moved the Purification to February 2.
- Jump up ^ Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, Revised ed., Allied Publishers, 2005 ISBN 9780550142108
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- Jump up ^ The Illustrated Library of the Natural Sciences, Volume 1, 1958, Simon and Schuster. p. 85 “The amethyst is the birthstone for February, and Saint Valentine is supposed to have worn an amethyst engraved with a figure of Cupid”
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- Jump up ^ As quoted in ‘India Today: Pot Pourri Generation’ 15 September issue, 2005
- Jump up ^ “Valentine’s Day: Fear stalks couples on day of love”. The Times of India. February 14, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-21.
- Jump up ^ “Bajrang Dal threat keeps couples at bay on V-Day”. The Times of India. February 15, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-21.
- Jump up ^ Esfandegan to Replace Valentine. Iran Daily. 2008-12-31. p. 6. Archived from the original on 2008-05-11, nitc.co.ir
- Jump up ^ Binyamin Kagedan / jns.org (February 8, 2012). “Evolution of Tu Be’av into Jewish Valentine’s Day. A celebration falling 6 days after Tisha Be’av has been re-imagined as a Jewish version of Valentine’s Day”. The Jerusalem Post
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- ^ Jump up to: a b c d Chris Yeager (2009-02-13). Valentine’s Day in Japan. Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP). Archived from the original on 25 July 2011.
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- Jump up ^ Ron Huza (he was an ESL in Japan for 11 years) (2007-02-14). “Lost in translation: The cultural divide over Valentine’s Day”. The Gazette
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> In the 1980s the Japanese National Confectionery Industry Association launched a successful campaign to make March 14 a “reply day”, where men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day, calling it White Day for the color of the chocolates being offered. A previous failed attempt to popularize this celebration had been done by a marshmallow manufacturer who wanted men to return marshmallows to women.mercio.com/noticiaEC.asp?id_noticia=334553&id_seccion=7 “Sacoto canta por San Valentín”]. El Comercio. “El cantante y compositor presentará un show romántico por el Día del Amor y la Amistad.”[dead link]
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6 Surprising Facts About St. Valentine
February 14, 2013
6 Surprising Facts About St. Valentine
By Elizabeth Hanes
A man named Valentinus was martyred on February 14 late in the third century A.D.—this much we know. But when it comes to details about the life of St. Valentine, legend often supersedes fact. As you celebrate this Valentine’s Day, find out the truth about the man for whom the day is named, as well as some other intriguing facts about history’s most romantic holiday.
1. The St. Valentine who inspired the holiday may have been two different men.
Officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, St. Valentine is known to be a real person who died around A.D. 270. However, his true identity was questioned as early as A.D. 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who referred to the martyr and his acts as “being known only to God.” One account from the 1400s describes Valentine as a temple priest who was beheaded near Rome by the emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed. A different account claims Valentine was the Bishop of Terni, also martyred by Claudius II on the outskirts of Rome. Because of the similarities of these accounts, it’s thought they may refer to the same person. Enough confusion surrounds the true identity of St. Valentine that the Catholic Church discontinued liturgical veneration of him in 1969, though his name remains on its list of officially recognized saints.
2. In all, there are about a dozen St. Valentines, plus a pope.
The saint we celebrate on Valentine’s Day is known officially as St. Valentine of Rome in order to differentiate him from the dozen or so other Valentines on the list. Because “Valentinus”—from the Latin word for worthy, strong or powerful—was a popular moniker between the second and eighth centuries A.D., several martyrs over the centuries have carried this name. The official Roman Catholic roster of saints shows about a dozen who were named Valentine or some variation thereof. The most recently beatified Valentine is St. Valentine Berrio-Ochoa, a Spaniard of the Dominican order who traveled to Vietnam, where he served as bishop until his beheading in 1861. Pope John Paul II canonized Berrio-Ochoa in 1988. There was even a Pope Valentine, though little is known about him except that he served a mere 40 days around A.D. 827.
3. Valentine is the patron saint of beekeepers and epilepsy, among many other things.
Saints are certainly expected to keep busy in the afterlife. Their holy duties include interceding in earthly affairs and entertaining petitions from living souls. In this respect, St. Valentine has wide-ranging spiritual responsibilities. People call on him to watch over the lives of lovers, of course, but also for interventions regarding beekeeping and epilepsy, as well as the plague, fainting and traveling. As you might expect, he’s also the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages.
4. You can find Valentine’s skull in Rome.
The flower-adorned skull of St. Valentine is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. In the early 1800s, the excavation of a catacomb near Rome yielded skeletal remains and other relics now associated with St. Valentine. As is customary, these bits and pieces of the late saint’s body have subsequently been distributed to reliquaries around the world. You’ll find other bits of St. Valentine’s skeleton on display in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Scotland, England and France.
5. Chaucer may have invented Valentine’s Day.
The medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer often took liberties with history, placing his poetic characters into fictitious historical contexts that he represented as real. No record exists of romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day prior to a poem Chaucer wrote around 1375. In his work “Parliament of Foules,” he links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day–an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention. The poem refers to February 14 as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. When Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” he may have invented the holiday we know today.
6. You can celebrate Valentine’s Day several times a year.
Because of the abundance of St. Valentines on the Roman Catholic roster, you can choose to celebrate the saint multiple times each year. Besides February 14, you might decide to celebrate St. Valentine of Viterbo on November 3. Or maybe you want to get a jump on the traditional Valentine celebration by feting St. Valentine of Raetia on January 7. Women might choose to honor the only female St. Valentine (Valentina), a virgin martyred in Palestine on July 25, A.D. 308. The Eastern Orthodox Church officially celebrates St. Valentine twice, once as an elder of the church on July 6 and once as a martyr on July 30.