The name comes from the 3rd century Roman saint – Saint Valentine who is considered to be the patron of those who are in love. He was probably a priest who ministered to persecuted Christians. Some legends say that Valentine performed in secret Christian weddings for soldiers and that he was cutting hearts from parchment, which is why this symbol is so often used to display love or infatuation. February 14 is the day of his burial, which is since 496 AD celebrated as the Feast of Saint Valentine, today known as Valentine’s Day.
An interesting fact is that Valentine’s Day was not associated with romantic love until 14th century. In ancient Rome there was another annual festival celebrated near February 14 – Lupercalia. The festival, by the way, was also called Februa, which is the origin of the name February. Although many say it was a bloody pagan festival, Lupercalia was connected with fertility and had no connections with Saint Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, Valentine’s Day did not have any romantic connotations until a 14th century poet, Chaucer, mentioned it in such a context in one of his works. He wrote: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate”. It is possible though, that Valentine’s Day customs have perpetuated those of the Roman Lupercalia.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently in various countries. Sending paper Valentine cards with printed verses inside at first became popular in England in the 19th century. In the United States the idea was picked up by Esther Howland, a daughter of a bookstore owner. Nowadays, around 190 million valentine cards are being sent every year in the USA. People give them in order to express their love to family members, wives, husbands, children or friends. Many kids learn how to make an own valentine at school. Except cards, other popular gifts on Valentine’s Day are chocolate boxes or flowers, especially red roses. The holiday became so popular that various movies or novels can be found with the Valentine’s Day motif. Except red hearts, there is also another representative symbol of Valentine’s Day – a baby with wings and arrows called the Cupid, probably originating in the Greek god Eros.
British and American traditions connected with Valentine’s Day have spread all over the world. In some countries, however, the idea of celebrating February 14th is criticized as a manifestation of Americanization and supersession of national traditions, but also because of commercial and consumerist attitude. The young generation, however, increasingly enjoys going out with their loved ones and giving them flowers or sweets on Valentine’s Day.
Did you know?
Before his execution, Saint Valentine is said to have written a note to the blind girl he had earlier cured. He signed the note “from your Valentine”, which became an inspiration for enamored ones sending love letters or cards today.
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