Updated: Feb 12
✦ Celebrating St. Valentine’s Day
It’s that time of year that those of a romantic persuasion hold very close to their hearts. Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love, often to those closest to us but also to those admired from afar. It’s a day synonymous with gifts, flowers, chocolates, romantic candle lit dinners, greeting cards and, increasingly nowadays, heart shaped emojis!
However, Valentine’s Day is not a fixed date in the universal calendar and it may therefore come as a surprise to learn that it is celebrated at different times in different countries throughout the world. Likewise, the manner in which the day of love is celebrated differs around the world, with some weird and wonderful traditions, which we take a look at below.
First things first though – how, when and why did Valentine’s Day originate? Well the simple answer is nobody really knows! That’s right, even seasoned historians can’t quite agree on the origins of the occasion, with several contrasting theories put forward.
What did the Romans ever do for us?
As with a lot of modern civilisation, one theory on the origins of Valentine’s Day suggests we have the Romans to thank. Emperor Claudius II reportedly had two separate men named Valentine beheaded on the day of February 14th in two separate years and it is believed the Catholic Church decided to honour the men as martyrs. It has been further suggested that one of the executed men, Saint Valentine of Terni, had been secretly arranging marriages for Roman soldiers against the wishes of the emperor, thus exentuating the notion of romance.
Another theory professes that it was Pope Gelasius I who, in the 5th century, declared Valentine’s Day a replacement for the Roman festival of Lupercalia. This festival, which took place between February 13-15, saw Romans offer sacrifices to the Gods in the form of a goat or a dog, the hides of which they would then use to whip women, which was believed to make them fertile. Afterwards a lucky dip would be made to matchmake couples who were then supposed to remain together for the remaining year ahead and, if they fell in love, would then marry.
Others believe it was much later that Valentine’s Day claimed its origins, crediting the likes of the old bard himself William Shakespeare and English poet Geoffrey Chaucer for romanticising the occasion, the latter in particular linking love with St. Valentine for the first time in his 14th century works “The Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars.”
William Shakespeare Geoffrey Chaucer
Thanks to the works of both men, the occasion gained in popularity in the Middle Ages throughout Britain and the rest of Europe as people hand-crafted cards and wrote personal messages of love and admiration to their chosen ones. Before long, the tradition expanded to the USA, the industrial revolution saw factory-made cards distributed en masse and, in 1913, Hallmark Cards was established and never looked back, with February one of their busiest months of the year.
What to write in a Valentine’s day card?
Here are 75 message ideas plus design templates.
Valentine’s Day is now a huge global business with estimates of close to US$24 billion being spent on the occasion each year. Statistics from Finder.com state that men are more likely than women to shop for more than one partner, with 20.07% of men saying they will purchase a Valentine’s Day gift for more than one romantic partner, compared to only 6.36% of women.
One day is not enough...
So, with the history and modern day commercials covered, let's take a look at how the special day of love is celebrated around the world.
For the fiery Latinos in Argentina having just one day to celebrate Valentine’s isn’t enough so they instead set aside an entire week during July for “Sweetness Week” which sees sweet treats exchanged for kisses.
Romance is clearly a big deal in South Korea who go even further in their celebrations than the passionate Argentinians. South Koreans celebrate a day of love not just on February 14th but on the 14th day of every month! This includes Rose Day on May 14th, Kiss Day on June 14th, Hug Day on December 14th and Black Day on April 14th when singletons congregate to console themselves over Jajangmyeon – the local delicacy of delicious black noodles!