Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day

Infobox Holiday|
holiday_name=Valentine's Day

caption=Traditional symbols of Valentine's Day include hearts, doves, Cupid, and love notes.
American postcard, circa 1900.
observedby=Western and Western-influenced cultures
date=February 14
nickname=St. Valentine's Day
observances=Sending greeting cards and gifts, dating.
longtype=Christian, cultural, multinational
significance=Lovers express their feelings to each other

Valentine's Day or Saint Valentine's Day is a holiday celebrated on February 14. In the Americas and Europe, it is the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other by sending Valentine's cards, presenting flowers, or offering confectionery. The holiday is named after two among the numerous Early Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

The day is most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of "valentines." Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards. [Leigh Eric Schmidt, "The Fashioning of a Modern Holiday: St. Valentine's Day, 1840-1870" "Winterthur Portfolio" 28.4 (Winter 1993), pp. 209-245.] The sending of Valentines was a fashion in nineteenth-century Great Britain, and, in 1847, Esther Howland developed a successful business in her Worcester, Massachusetts home with hand-made Valentine cards based on British models. The popularity of Valentine cards in 19th-century America was a harbinger of the future commercialization of holidays in the United States. [Leigh Eric Schmidt, "The Commercialization of the calendar: American holidays and the culture of consumption, 1870-1930" "Journal of American History" 78.3 (December 1991) pp 890-98.]

The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines cards are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines. [ [ American Greeting Card Association website] .]

Saint Valentine

Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. [Henry Ansgar Kelly, in "Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine" ((Leiden: Brill) 1986, accounts for these and further local Saints Valentine (Ch. 6 "The Genoese Saint Valentine and the observances of May") in arguring that Chaucer had an established tradition in mind, and (pp 79ff) linking the Valentine in question to Valentine, first bishop of Genoa, the only Saint Valentine honoured with a feast in springtime, the season indicated by Chaucer. Valentine of Genoa was treated by Jacobus of Verazze in his "Chronicle of Genoa" (Kelly p. 85).] Until 1969, the Catholic Church formally recognized eleven Valentine's Days. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome ("Valentinus presb. m. Romae") and Valentine of Terni ("Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae"). ["Oxford Dictionary of Saints", "s.v." "Valentine": "The Acts of both are unreliable, and the Bollandists assert that these two Valentines were in fact one and the same."]

Valentine of Rome [ [ Valentine of Rome] ] was a priest in Rome who suffered martyrdom about AD 269 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. His relics are at the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome. [ [ Saint Valentine's Day: Legend of the Saint] ] and at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.

Valentine of Terni [ [ Valentine of Terni] ] became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been killed during the persecution of Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni ("Basilica di San Valentino"). [ [ Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni] ]

The "Catholic Encyclopedia" also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him. Some sources say the Valentine linked to romance is Valentine of Rome, others say Valentine of Terni.Fact|date=March 2007 Some scholars (such as the Bollandists Fact|date=March 2007) have concluded that the two were originally the same person. ["Oxford Dictionary of Saints", "s.v." "Valentine".]

No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the fourteenth century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost. [The present Roman Martyrology records, at February 14, "In Rome, on the Via Flaminia near the Milvian Bridge: St. Valentine, martyr."]

In 1836, relics of St. Valentine of Rome were donated by Pope Gregory XVI to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland. In the 1960s, the church was renovated and relics restored to prominence. []

In the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feastday of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: "Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14." ["Calendarium Romanum ex Decreto Sacrosancti Œcumenici Concilii Vaticani II Instauratum Auctoritate Pauli PP. VI Promulgatum" (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, MCMLXIX), p. 117] The feast day is still celebrated in Balzan and in Malta where relics of the saint are claimed to be found, and also throughout the world by Traditionalist Catholics who follow the older, pre-Vatican II calendar.

The Early Medieval "acta" of either Saint Valentine were excerpted by Bede and briefly expounded in "Legenda Aurea". [ [ "Legenda Aurea", "Saint Valentine"] .] According to that version, St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. "Legenda Aurea" still providing no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. In an embellishment to "The Golden Legend", on the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first "valentine" himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his beloved, [ Materials provided by American Greetings, Inc. to] ] as the jailer's daughter whom he had befriended and healed, [ [ History of Valentine's day] ,] or both. [ [ Happy Valentine's Day from Pops ] ] It was a note that read "From your Valentine." [ Materials provided by American Greetings, Inc. to] ] In another apparently modern embellishment, while Valentine was imprisoned, people would leave him little notes, folded up and hidden in cracks in the rocks around his cell. He would find them and offer prayers for them. Fact|date=March 2007

Attested traditions


In Ancient Rome, February 15 was Lupercalia, an archaic rite connected to fertility, without overtones of romance. Lupercalia was a festival local to the city of Rome. The more general Festival of Juno Februa, meaning "Juno the purifier "or "the chaste Juno," was celebrated on February 13-14. Pope Gelasius I (492-496) abolished Lupercalia.

While it is a common opinion that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to christianize celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia, no connection has been demonstrated.

Geoffrey Chaucer by Thomas Occleve (1412)]

Chaucer's love birds

The first recorded association of Valentine's Day with romantic love is in "Parlement of Foules" (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer: [Oruch, Jack B., "St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February," "Speculum," 56 (1981): 534-65. Oruch's survey of the literature finds no association between Valentine and romance prior to Chaucer. He concludes that Chaucer is likely to be "the original mythmaker in this instance." [] ]

"For this was on seynt Volantynys day"
"Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make".

This poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. [ [ Henry Ansgar Kelly, Valentine's Day / UCLA Spotlight] ] A treaty providing for a marriage was signed on May 2, 1381. [ [ Chaucer: The Parliament of Fowls] ] (When they were married eight months later, he was 13 or 14, and she was 14.)

Readers have uncritically assumed that Chaucer was referring to February 14 as Valentine's Day; however, mid-February is an unlikely time for birds to be mating in England. Henry Ansgar Kelly has pointed out [Kelly, Henry Ansgar, "Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine" (Brill Academic Publishers, 1997), ISBN 90-04-07849-5. Kelly gives the saint's day of the Genoese Valentine as May 3 and also claims that Richard's engagement was announced on this day. [] ] that in the liturgical calendar, May 2 is the saints' day for Valentine of Genoa. This St. Valentine was an early bishop of Genoa who died around AD 307. [ [ Calendar of the Saints: 2 May] ; [ Saint Patrick's Church: Saints of May 2] ]

Chaucer's "Parliament of Foules" is set in a fictional context of an old tradition, but in fact there was no such tradition before Chaucer. The speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among eighteenth-century antiquaries, notably Alban Butler, the author of "Butler's Lives of Saints", and have been perpetuated even by respectable modern scholars. Most notably, "the idea that Valentine's Day customs perpetuated those of the Roman Lupercalia has been accepted uncritically and repeated, in various forms, up to the present" [Oruch 1981:539.]

Medieval period and the English Renaissance

Using the language of the law courts for the rituals of courtly love, a "High Court of Love" was established in Paris on Valentine's Day in 1400. The court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. Judges were selected by women on the basis of a poetry reading. [ [ Domestic Violence, Discourses of Romantic Love, and Complex Personhood in the Law - [1999] MULR 8; (1999) 23 Melbourne University Law Review 211] ] [ [ Court of Love: Valentine's Day, 1400] ]

The earliest surviving valentine is a fifteenth-century rondeau written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his "valentined" wife, which commences.

"Je suis desja d'amour tanné
"Ma tres doulce Valentinée…"
(Charles d'Orléans, Rondeau VI, lines 1–2)

At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415. [ [ History Channel] .]

Valentine's Day is mentioned ruefully by Ophelia in "Hamlet" (1600-1601):

"To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,"
"All in the morning betime,"
"And I a maid at your window,"
"To be your Valentine."
"Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,"
"And dupp'd the chamber-door;"
"Let in the maid, that out a maid"
"Never departed more."
(William Shakespeare, "Hamlet", Act IV, Scene 5)

Modern times

The reinvention of Saint Valentine's Day in the 1840s has been traced by Leigh Eric Schmidt. [Schmidt 1993:209-245.] As a writer in "Graham's American Monthly" observed in 1849, "Saint Valentine's Day... is becoming, nay it has become, a national holyday." [Quoted in Schmidt 1993:209.] In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland (1828-1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father operated a large book and stationery store, but Howland took her inspiration from an English valentine she had received, so clearly the practice of sending Valentine's cards had existed in England before it became popular in North America. The English practice of sending Valentine's cards appears in Elizabeth Gaskell's "Mr. Harrison's Confessions" (published 1851). Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary." The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards. [Leigh Eric Schmidt, "The Fashioning of a Modern Holiday: St. Valentine's Day, 1840-1870" "Winterthur Portfolio" 28.4 (Winter 1993), pp. 209-245.] The mid-nineteenth century Valentine's Day trade was a harbinger of further commercialized holidays in the United States to follow. [Leigh Eric Schmidt, "The Commercialization of the calendar: American holidays and the culture of consumption, 1870-1930" "Journal of American History" 78.3 (December 1991) pp 890-98.]

In the second half of the twentieth century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts in the United States, usually from a man to a woman. [ [ American Greeting Card Association website] .] Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped box. In the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as an occasion for giving jewelry. The day has come to be associated with a generic platonic greeting of "Happy Valentine's Day." As a joke, Valentine's Day is also referred to as "Singles Awareness Day." In some North American elementary schools, children decorate classrooms, exchange cards, and eat sweets. The greeting cards of these students often mention what they appreciate about each other.

Antique and vintage Valentines, 1850-1950

Valentines of the mid-19th and early 20th centuries

Postcards, "pop-ups", and mechanical Valentines, circa 1900-1930

Black Americana and children's Valentines

Similar days honoring love

In the West


Valentine's Day has regional traditions in the UK. In Norfolk, a character called 'Jack' Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children. Although he was leaving treats, many children were scared of this mystical person. In Wales, many people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen ("St Dwynwen's Day") on January 25 instead of or as well as St Valentine's Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers. In France, a traditionally Catholic country, Valentine's Day is known simply as "Saint Valentin", and is celebrated in much the same way as other western countries.

In Denmark and Norway, Valentine's Day (14 Feb) is known as "Valentinsdag". It is not celebrated to a large extent, but a lot people take time to eat a romantic dinner with their partner, to send a card to a secret love or give a red rose to their loved one. In Sweden it is called "Alla hjärtans dag" ("All Hearts' Day") and was launched in the 1960s by the flower industry's commercial interests, and due to influence of American culture. It is not an official holiday, but its celebration is recognized and sales of cosmetics and flowers for this holiday are only bested by those for Mother's Day.

In Finland Valentine's Day is called "Ystävänpäivä" which translates into "Friend's day". As the name says, this day is more about remembering all your friends, not only your loved ones. The same goes for Estonia, where Valentine's Day is called "Sõbrapäev".

In Slovenia, a proverb says that "St Valentine brings the keys of roots," so on February 14, plants and flowers start to grow. Valentine's Day has been celebrated as the day when the first works in the vineyards and on the fields commence. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day. Nevertheless, it has only recently been celebrated as the day of love. The day of love is traditionally March 12, the Saint Gregory's day. Another proverb says "Valentin - prvi spomladin" ("Valentine — first saint of spring"), as in some places (especially White Carniola) Saint Valentine marks the beginning of spring.

In Romania, the traditional holiday for lovers is Dragobete, which is celebrated on February 24. It is named after a character from Romanian folklore who was supposed to be the son of Baba Dochia. Part of his name is the word "drag" ("dear"), which can also be found in the word "dragoste" ("love"). In recent years, Romania has also started celebrating Valentine's Day, despite already having Dragobete as a traditional holiday. This has drawn backlash from many groups, reputable persons and institutions [ [ Valentine`s Day versus Dragobete] ro icon] but also nationalist organizations like Noua Dreaptǎ, who condemn Valentine's Day for being superficial, commercialist and imported Western kitsch.

Valentine's Day is called "Sevgililer Günü" in Turkey, which translates into "Sweethearts' Day".

According to Jewish tradition the 15th day of the month of Av - Tu B'Av (usually late August) is the festival of love. In ancient times girls would wear white dresses and dance in the vineyards, where the boys would be waiting for them (Mishna Taanith end of Chapter 4). In modern Israeli culture this is a popular day to pronounce love, propose marriage and give gifts like cards or flowers.

Central and South America

In Guatemala, Valentine's Day is known as "Día del Amor y la Amistad" (Day of Love and Friendship). Although it is similar to the United States' version in many ways, it is also common to see people do "acts of appreciation" for their friends. [ [ Día del Amor y la Amistad ] ]

In Brazil, the "Dia dos Namorados" (lit. "Day of the Enamored", or "Boyfriends'/Girlfriends' Day") is celebrated on June 12, when couples exchange gifts, chocolates, cards and flower bouquets. This day was chosen probably because it is the day before the Festa junina’s Saint Anthony's day, known there as the "marriage saint", when traditionally many single women perform popular rituals, called "simpatias", in order to find a good husband or boyfriend. The February 14's Valentine's Day is not celebrated at all, mainly for cultural and commercial reasons, since it usually falls too little before or after Carnival, a major floating holiday in Brazil — long regarded as a holiday of sex and by many in the country [ [,9171,900628,00.html The Psychology of Carnaval] , "TIME Magazine", February 14, 1969] — that can fall anywhere from early February to early March.

In most of South America the "Día del amor y la amistad" (lit. "Love and Friendship Day") and the "Amigo secreto" ("Secret friend") are quite popular and usually celebrated together on the 14 of February (one exception is Colombia, where it is celebrated on September 20th). The latter consists of randomly assigning to each participant a recipient who is to be given an anonymous gift (similar to the Christmas tradition of Secret Santa).


Thanks to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine's Day is celebrated in some Asian countries with Singaporeans, Chinese and South Koreans spending the most money on Valentine's gifts. [Domingo, Ronnel. [ Among Asians, Filipinos dig Valentine's Day the most] . "Philippine Daily Inquirer", February 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-21.]

In Japan, it has become an obligation for many women to give chocolates to all male co-workers. This is known as "giri-choko" (義理チョコ), from the words "giri" ("obligation") and "choko", ("chocolate"). This contrasts with "honmei-choko" (本命チョコ); chocolate given to a loved one. Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as "tomo-choko" (友チョコ); from "tomo" meaning "friend". By a further marketing effort, a reciprocal day called White Day has emerged. On March 14, men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine's Day. Originally, the return gift was supposed to be white chocolate or marshmallows; hence "White Day". However, lingerie and jewelry have become common gifts.

In South Korea, there is Pepero Day, celebrated on November 11, when young couples give each other romantic gifts, in particular a long, chocolate cookie named Pepero, thus Pepero Day. The date '11/11' is intended to resemble the long shape of the cookie. There is an additional day for single people, Black Day, celebrated on April 14.

In China, the common situation is the man gives chocolate, flowers or both to the woman that he loves. In Chinese, Valentine's Day is called (zh-stp|s=情人节|t=情人節|p=qing ren jie).

Similar Asian traditions

In Chinese culture, there is an older observance related to lovers. It is called "The Night of Sevens" (zh-cp|c=七夕|p=Qi Xi). According to the legend, the Cowherd star and the Weaver Maid star are normally separated by the milky way (river) but are allowed to meet by crossing it on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar.

An observance on the same day in Korea is called Chilseok, but its association with romance has long faded.

In Japan, a slightly different version of 七夕 (called Tanabata, which is said to mean 棚機 a weaver for a god) is celebrated, on July 7 on the Gregorian calendar. However, it is never regarded that the celebration is even remotely related with the St. Valentine's Day or lovers giving gifts to each other.

The Middle East

In Iranian culture, Sepandarmazgan is a day for love, which is on 29 Bahman in the Jalali solar calendar of Iran. The corresponding date in the Gregorian calendar is February 17. Valentine's day is currently celebrated in Iran despite some restrictions made by government; young Iranian boys and girls are seen on this day going out and buying gifts and celebrating.

In Saudi Arabia in 2008, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine's Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, as the day is considered an un-Islamic holiday. This ban created a black market of roses and wrapping paper. [cite web|url=|title=Saudis clamp down on valentines|author=BBC News]

See also

*February 14
*Sailor's Valentines
*Vinegar valentines
*Hallmark holiday

References and notes

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