It’s Valentine’s Day, the day when people show their affection for another person or people by sending cards, flowers or chocolates with messages of love. But how did Valentine’s Day start and how is it now celebrate across the world?
How did Valentine’s Day start?
The day started in the year 469 and it gets its name from a famous saint and priest from Rome in the third century AD. An Emperor, Claudius II had banned marriage because he thought married men were bad soldiers. St. Valentine felt this was unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret. When Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. There, he fell in love with the jailer's daughter and when he was taken to be killed on 14th of February he sent her a love letter signed "from your Valentine".
Valentine’s day became a Christian celebration during this time and decided to use it to remember St Valentine. Over the years St Valentines name was being used by people to express their feeling to those they loved.
In Denmark they don’t mess around with old romantic poems and love letters and instead have a more humours approach known as gaekkebrev which translates to ‘joking letter’. These witty poems are to be taken light-heartedly and laughter is the love language of many people.
In Latin America Valentine’s day is known as Dia del Amor y la Amistad, which translates to Day of Love and Friendship. Colombia celebrates the Day of Love and Friendship in September because the country was looking to spur the economy during a month that previously had no holidays to celebrate. Columbian’s make Valentine day happen for a large portion of the western world as they notably produce 65% of all cut flowers imported into the US.
Korean’s have more than just one day that celebrates love in fact they have one for each month of the year. The first celebration of love is January on ‘Candle Day’ and throughout the year they celebrate many more with ‘Wine Day’ ‘Movie Day’ and ‘Green Day’.
These days celebrate different kinds of love and appreciation and one of those days that stands out from the other is Black Day, celebrated on the 14th of April. It’s a day single people that don’t get to join in on Valentine’s or White Day to enjoy some jjajangmyeon (black sauce noodles) or other black coloured foods to wallow in their single status.
In the month just before the truly beautiful Cherry Blossoms bloom in Japan, women subvert gender roles by giving two different types of chocolate boxes to men on Valentines day to show their love. Women give “obligation chocolate” giri choko to men they have mixed feelings about which is quite funny because you’d never know whether they were the other type “true feeling chocolate” honmei choko which women give to their true loved ones.
For people in the Philippines Valentines day is a big deal. Mass weddings are commonplace in most areas of this country but on Valentines couples gather to tie the knot and exchange vows in their hundreds. The Philippines government know that many people can’t afford to celebrated the day and so they sponsor the wedding cakes, rings, flowers and even banquets for people’s big day. All the bride and groom have to do is turn up in their finest outfits.
Although not common practice now the Chinese celebrate Qixi Festival, meaning “Evening of Sevens”, a day observed on the 7th of the 7th month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. This festival honours an ancient tale of star-crossed lovers Niulang (a cowherd) and Zhinu (a weaver girl) who were restricted from being with each other by the Goddess of Heaven, Zhinu’s mother. Women would go to the shrine on this day to pray for skills in weaving and at night sit with their needlework and gaze at the star.
Italians speak the original love language of St Valentine but know how to say I love you in more ways than one. On Valentine’s Day Italians are known for sending multilingual love notes. If that wasn’t impressive enough Italians celebrate the Lovers in Camogli festival takes place the week before valentines day. The highlight of the event is a plate-painting competition where people vote on the most beautiful plates, which are then displayed along the seafront.