Many believe that Valentine’s Day is something that only Americans celebrate. Despite the fact that many believe this “special day” to be a Pagan holiday, people have bought into the commercialized aspect of the “holiday” pining for romantic gestures from loved ones. From a commercial perspective, Valentine’s Day is fruitful in the United States. Laura Rahill of The Times Leger reports:
• 220,000 is the average number of wedding proposals on this day each year.
• 73 percent of American men buy flowers on Valentine’s Day.
• 15 percent of American women send flowers to themselves.
• Every year on Valentine’s Day, the Italian city of Verona, where William Shakespeare’s characters Romeo and Juliet lived, receives thousands of letters to the fictional character Juliet.
• About 3 percent of people will give a gift to their true love: their pet.
• In the Middle Ages, it was said that the first unmarried person you met on the morning of Feb. 14 would be your spouse.
Despite these factors, Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide. In fact, depending on which narrative you follow, Valentine’s Day began overseas as a Pagan festival and/or fertility celebration in Rome around 496. There’s also the story of persecuted Saint Valentin secretly marrying soldiers who were forbidden to marry because the Emperor Claudius II thought it would make them weak in battle. Valentine’s Day is also believed to have originated in France during the Middle Ages. Apparently, when birds began to mate halfway through the second month of the year, French lovers considered this a sign and began exchanging love letters, marking the beginning of the holiday. And of course, there can be no Valentine’s Day without Chaucer. The author writes:
“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.”
Valentine’s Day is a decidedly international holiday, that has evolved over the years to mean many things to many people. It is celebrated throughout the world. DoSomething.org offers insight into how diverse cultures celebrate this day dedicated to love.
Here are a few examples:
South Africa. Week long celebrations and parties take place in South Africa. Young girls celebrate the day by celebrating a tradition called “Lupercalia.” This tradition requires girls to pin the name of their lover on their sleeve.
United Kingdom. Along with exchanging cards, chocolates and flowers, Brits write sonnets and verses to each other. Children also join in the fun by spending the day singing songs.
China. Chinese Valentine’s Day is on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month on the Chinese calendar. Couples visit a temple called “Temple of Matchmaker” and pray for happiness and future marriage. Single people also visit to pray for luck in finding love.
Find out more about how other cultures celebrate Valentine’s Day here.
This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire.