Valentine’s Day is a time when people show feelings of love, affection and friendship. It is celebrated in many ways worldwide and falls on February 14 each year.
What Do People Do? Many people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing appreciation for the people they love or adore. Some people take their loved ones for a romantic dinner at a restaurant while others may choose this day to propose or get married. Many people give greeting cards, chocolates, jewelry or flowers, particularly roses, to their partners or admirers on Valentine’s Day. It is also a time to appreciate friends in some social circles and cultures. For example, Valentine's Day in Finland refers to “Friend's day”, which is more about remembering all friends rather than focusing solely on romance. Valentine's Day in Guatemala is known as Day of Love and Friendship). It is similar to Valentine’s Day customs and traditions countries such as the United States but it is also a time for many to show their appreciation for their friends. The ancient ceremony included putting girls’ names in a box and letting the boys draw them out. Couples would then be paired off until the following year. The Christian church substituted saints’ names for girls’ names in hope that the participant would model his life after the saint whose name he drew. However, it was once again girls’ names that ended up in the box by the 16th century.
Eventually the custom of sending anonymous cards or messages to those whom one admired became the accepted way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. There was an increase in interest in Valentine's Day, first in the United States and then in Canada, in the mid-19th century. Early versions of Valentine cards fashioned of satin and lace and ornamented with flowers, ribbons, and images of cupids or birds appeared in England in the 1880s. Roman Roots The history of Valentine's Day is obscure, and further clouded by various fanciful legends. The holiday's roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day. Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine of the holiday was a priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. At this stage, the factual ends and the mythic begins. According to one legend, Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies but was eventually apprehended by the Romans and put to death. Another legend has it that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed "from your Valentine." Probably the most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not focused on Eros (passionate love) but on agape (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion. In 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable. St. Valentine was one of the casualties. Chaucer's Love Birds It was not until the 14th century that this Christian feast day became definitively associated with love. According to UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine, it was Chaucer who first linked St. Valentine's Day with romance. In 1381, Chaucer composed a poem in honor of the engagement between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. As was the poetic tradition, Chaucer associated the occasion with a feast day. In "The Parliament of Fowls," the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine's Day are linked.