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We all know that Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for us to show our loved ones exactly how much they mean to us. On February 14th every year, we treat our partners to gifts and perhaps a memorable experience, with some even getting engaged on this significant Day.

But why do we choose February 14th as the Day to express our feelings of love? Where did the concept of Valentine’s Day initially come from? And how is it uniquely celebrated in different parts of the world?

Let’s take a look.

Why Valentine’s Day? 

Valentine’s Day has its roots in the Ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was held in the middle of February. It was primarily a celebration of the arrival of Spring. Yet, it also included fertility rites and the questionable practice of pairing women and men by a type of lottery!

Fortunately, the holiday has evolved over time, and we’re no longer subjected to a lover’s lottery. In around the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day. Still, it wasn’t until sometime in the 14th century that it came to be celebrated as a day of romance.

Where does the name come from?

Although Valentine’s Day has become a revered day of celebration for most of us, the man who gave the holiday its name has a rather dark story.

It is thought that Valentine was a Catholic priest who served during the third century in Rome. At the time, the relentless Emperor Claudius II decreed that men were not permitted to marry, as he believed that single men made more fearless soldiers.

Priest Valentine ignored the Emperor’s orders and continued to perform marriages. When his actions were discovered, he was put to death. Before he was martyred, the priest signed a letter addressed to his jailer’s daughter from your Valentine,’ which is where many people believe the popular holiday greeting originates from.

How has Valentine’s Day evolved throughout the years? 

Once Valentine’s Day  got it’s namepeople started exchanging formal messages of love and affection in the 1500s. The popularity of Valentine’s Day can be in some part attributed to the striking love poems of the English Renaissance.

Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Who Ever Loved That Loved Not at First Sight?’ is a wonderful example of an expression of love, and it concludes with the lines:

Where both deliberate, the love is slight: 

Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?

We’ve all heard the expression ‘love at first sight,’ and it is fair to assume that Marlowe and other poets and writers have been the inspiration for many commercial Valentine’s Day cards that appeared in the centuries to follow.

Commercially printed cards first appeared in the eighteenth century, but it wasn’t until the following century that they first appeared in the United States. During this time, Valentine’s Day cards depicted Cupid, who was the Roman God of love. It was also from the American adoption of the Valentine’s Day greeting that the heart was first used as a symbol of love.

How is Valentine’s Day celebrated in different parts of the world?

Valentine’s Day today is prevalent in most Western countries, and is celebrated in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and has even permeated many Asian and African cultures since the mid-twentieth century.

In Europe, Valentine’s Day is celebrated as it is in North America, with the exchange of gifts and perhaps a memorable experience. Couples also flock to romantic points of interest on Valentine’s Day, such as The Magere Brug in Amsterdam, where couples can chain personalized padlocks to the bridge to symbolize the strength of their relationship.

However, in some parts of the world, Valentine’s Day celebrations are somewhat different from what many of us are accustomed to when we think about February 14th.

In South Korea, Valentine’s Day is not only celebrated on February 14th , but on the 14th Day of every month! In May, it is known as ‘the day of roses,’ in June it is called ‘the day of kisses,’ and in December, it is referred to ‘the day of hugs.’ Evidently, for Koreans, one celebration of love every year is insufficient.

In GhanaFebruary 14 is celebrated as ‘National Chocolate Day.’ That’s certainly a day many of us can get on board with, as in many Western cultures, chocolate is a common gift exchanged by lovers on Valentine’s Day. Chocolate day is celebrated at music events, restaurants, and hotels across the country, and has turned into quite the spectacle since the government announced it an official day in 2007.

In Japan, it would be fair to describe February 14th as Valentine’s Day with a twist. This is because it is only women who can buy gifts for their male lovers or companions. Men aren’t traditionally permitted to purchase gifts in return until one month later, on March 14th, on a day that is known as ‘White Day.’ 

In Brazil, Valentine’s Day is known as ‘Dia dos Namorados’ festival or ‘Lovers Day.’ While it follows many of Valentine’s Day conventions, such as gift-giving, it is also a day of celebration for families who get together for big gatherings to show their love for one another. Valentine’s Day in many countries tends to ignore the love we have for our families and focuses on those we’re romantically involved with. This is what makes the festival so unique in Brazil.

Valentine’s Day: showing affection in different ways.

As we have seen, the history of Valentine’s Day is an interesting one, and the day of celebration has undoubtedly evolved over time. It’s fascinating that countries in different parts of the world have their own unique takes on this special day, making it even more unique in many respects.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, maybe you’ve been inspired to try something new with your partner? Perhaps you could take inspiration from Ghana and shower your loved one in chocolate treats? Or maybe you could replicate celebrations from Brazil and invite your whole family over for a celebration of love and appreciation?

Let us know in the comments how you celebrate, we’d love to hear about different traditions!

Whatever you decide, hopefully, your Valentine’s Day is filled with joy, love, and appreciation of the most important people in your life.

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