Valentine’s Day: The History of Love & How the World Celebrates

Valentine’s Day is a polarising holiday: some find Valentines traditions a cringe worthy custom reserved for newly dating honeymoon phase couples – yet others revel in the opportunity to cherish their loved ones. While the quasi holiday may be over-commercialised and somewhat vain, the historical origins of the day are romantic and pure.

The Feast of Saint Valentine is celebrated annually on the 14th of February. The holiday commemorates the martyrdom of Saint Valentine for secretly wedding young couples while a ban was imposed. The Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men after deciding that unmarried men made better soldiers than those with children and wives back home to consider. Once Valentine’s practises had been discovered, he was imprisoned and tortured.

During his time in incarceration, legend suggest that Valentine prayed to restore sight to the blind daughter of his judge. Prior to his execution in the year 269 AD, Valentine’s wrote her a farewell letter which was signed from “Your Valentine.” This is believed to be the origins of the tradition of sending loved ones Valentine’s Day letters and greeting cards.

Since then, Valentine’s Day has evolved into an occasion where lovers expressed their affection through flowers, candy, stuffed animals and greeting cards. Around the world various international iterations of Valentine’s Day celebrations can be observed.

Japan

In japan, it is custom that only women give chocolates to men. The practise evolved from a mistranslation of a marketing campaign which was originally targeted at foreigners.

The translation states that office women are to give chocolate to their male co-workers. Each type of chocolates have different meaning, with unpopular colleagues receiving giri-choko (a.k.a. obligatory chocolates) and loved ones receiving honmei-choko, a “true feeling” chocolate.

A campaign was launched by confectionary companies in Japan for a reply day known as “White Day” where men can reciprocate the exchange of confectionary, jewellery and clothing.

Estonia

Valentine’s Day in Estonia is a celebration of love but also friendship. Referred to as “Friend’s Day,” the holiday ensures singles are not left out of the festivities and gift giving. There is also a special bus called the “love bus” where singles are able to take a ride and meet a potential lover.

South Korea

In South Korea, women gift chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day and men gift non-chocolate confectionary to their female counterparts on March 14. Those who did not receive any gifts on either holiday go out on April 14 which is known as “Black Day,” and eat black bean paste noodles (jajangmyeon) and lament over their single life.

Philippians

Each year on Valentine’s Day mass weddings are held in the Philippians. The ceremonies are often held in joint venues to make it more affordable and the wedding kiss is synchronised.

Germany

Pigs are a popular symbol for Valentine’s Day in Germany, as they represent luck as well as lust. Pig shaped confectionary and figurines are a common gift to loved ones as a sign of affection.

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