Saint Valentine's Day, often simply Valentine's Day, is a holiday observed on February 14
honoring one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentinus. It was first established by
Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, and was later deleted from the General Roman Calendar of saints in
1969 by Pope Paul VI. It is celebrated in hundreds of countries around the world, mostly in the
West, although it remains a working day in all of them.
The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High
Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had 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")
Modern Valentine's Day symbols 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. (wikipedia)
St. Valentine was actually two people who were martyred on the same day (c. 270). Feasts
commemorating them were celebrated on February 14. One was a priest and physician who
died in Rome during the persecution of Christians by Claudius II Grothicus. The other was the
bishop at Terni, Italy who was also martyred in Rome. Both have been buried at different
places along the Flaminian Way.
So why do people send "valentines" or "love-tokens" to one another on that
day? The origin of that tradition is not thought to have any connection with the
saint's day. Rather it comes from an early European belief that the second week
of February was when birds began to mate. The idea suggests that lovers should
probably exchange notes and gifts on February 14 in conjunction with what nature
Nowadays, Valentine's Day is observed as a special day for love. This topic is one of the oldest,
and probably most-discussed, issues in history!
While sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts is traditional in the UK, Valentine's Day
has various regional customs. 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 Wales, many people celebrate 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. 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. 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 Saint George's Day.
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.
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 some Latin American countries Valentine's Day is known as "Día del Amor y la Amistad" (Day
of Love and Friendship). For example Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, 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 it 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's Valentine's Day is not celebrated at all, mainly for
cultural and commercial reasons, since it usually falls too little before or after Carnival. —
that can fall anywhere from early February to early March.
In Venezuela, in 2009, President Hugo Chávez said in a meeting to his supporters for the
upcoming referendum vote on February 15, that "since on the 14th, there will be no time of
doing nothing, nothing or next to nothing ... maybe a little kiss or something very superficial",
he recommended people to celebrate a week of love after the referendum vote. In most of
Latin America the Día del amor y la amistad and the Amigo secreto ("Secret friend") are quite
popular and usually celebrated together on the 14 of February. 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).
Thanks to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine's Day is celebrated in some Asian
countries with Singaporeans, Chinese and South Koreans spending the most money on
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 the 14th of Feb 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. Korean women give a much higher amount
of chocolate than Japanese women.
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 (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. Modern Valentine's Day is also celebrated on February 14 of the solar
calendar each year.
In Taiwan the situation is the reverse of Japan's. Men give gifts to women on Valentine's Day,
and women return them on White Day.
In the Philippines, Valentine's Day is called "Araw ng mga Puso" or "Hearts Day". It is usually
marked by a steep increase in the prices of flowers. (wikipedia)
Typical Valentine's Day Greetings
In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada,
Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain,
Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By
the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social
classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900
printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing
technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time
when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also
contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings.
Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s,
Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland,
known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and
colorful pictures known as "scrap." Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an
estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second
largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)
Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines. (history.com)