When the month of February arrives, almost all people on the planet have one thing in mind: how am I going to spend Valentine’s Day? But before you think about that, you should also think about where this holiday originated from.
What is it?
Valentine’s Day is also known as Saint Valentine’s Day or Feast of Saint Valentine. It began as a celebration for one of the earlier Christian saints known as Valentinus. Around the world it is celebrated on February 14th, however it may not be a national holiday in some countries.
The Victorians were very fond of sending Valentines and might spend many hours creating a special offering in watercolours or a poem or puzzle, or adding trims to lace paper. Some young men would commission a special poem for their favoured lady, while women might paint or colour a picture. Catherine (Kate) Greenaway was a popular illustrator of children’s books in Victorian times, having attended art college, and she also designed valentines for card manufacturers, which are now collector’s items.
Why the love?
The romantic nature of Valentine’s Day may stem from the fact that St. Valentinus used to perform weddings for people who were not allowed to get married or were enemies of the Roman Empire. For this, he was sentenced to imprisonment where he later healed the daughter of his jailor. Although this holiday is celebrated on February 14th, it is, in some parts, celebrated on other days such as July 6 and July 30 by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The day’s romantic association first came in the High Middle Ages of 18th century England where the practice of courtship and romance was greatly emphasized. The practice of flowers and distribution of romantic notes was further emphasized in this era which lead to present day Valentine’s where one gives their counterpart flowers, a special note and maybe even some chocolate.
Modern Valentine’s Day
By the twentieth century, there was a mass production Valentine greeting cards which lead to how it is distributed today. In the latter parts of the twentieth century, the practice of giving and receiving cards was extrapolated to every sort of gifts. So if a man gave his wife chocolate, flowers and a card, he would expect his wife to give him some sort of chocolate, a card and maybe something else. Regardless of what material good was given, the intention was the same and that was to return the favour one has bestowed upon another.
Statistics now show that almost 190 million valentines are sent around the United States of America each year. Whether they go to family members, your loved ones, your spouse, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your significant other or your partner, that is a lot of valentines. It is so emphasized that it is even a practice seen in public schools with children aged just five years old giving valentines to their peers.
Valentine’s on a Global Scale
In China, the most common gift given by a man to a woman is chocolate, flowers or both. It is often referred to as a lovers’ festival, where the woman is not necessarily expected to bestow gifts on the man. In Finland, Valentine’s Day is more or less a Friend’s Day and it is a day for you to remember all your friends and not just your spouse or significant other.
In essence, Valentine’s Day started as a holiday where the act of marrying two people was celebrated even if it was against the law at the time. Now it is more or less a way to remember your loved ones and your friends and to show them you appreciate them by showering them with gifts and flowers.