By Ruby Butcher
The tradition of Valentine’s Day started in England in 1537, when King Henry VII officially declared Feb. 14 the holiday of St. Valentine's Day, to celebrate all things romantic. Since then, traditions have developed into what we know today; a day of romantic dates, giving gifts of affection and celebrating love.
There are a few theories about Valentine’s days origin, however the most popular and interesting story is that in the Roman times, Emperor Claudius II didn't want men to marry during wartime. Bishop Saint Valentine however, did not agree with this, and performed secret weddings for soldiers against the Emperor’s wishes. Saint Valentine was caught, imprisoned and sentenced to death, but during imprisonment the legend goes that he restored sight to the judge’s daughter, and being the die-hard romantic he was, wrote a note to her on his departure, signing it "Your Valentine".
In Victorian times, it was considered bad luck to sign your name on a Valentine’s Day card, which may answer to why anonymous love letters, or letters simply signed ‘Your Valentine’ are still a popular tradition.
Today, about 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year. This makes it the second largest seasonal card sending time of the year after Christmas. So much so that there have been theories that Valentines Day started merely as a marketing campaign by card shops to increase sales after the Christmas period.
Gift giving is also an essential part of the tradition. The red rose has been a favourite gift for valentines day for a long time. Not only is the colour red symbolic of romance, but it was the favourite flower of the Roman goddess of love, Venus.
Doctors of the 1800’s commonly advised their patients to eat chocolate to calm their pining for lost love, which is perhaps why chocolate is also a common romantic gift. Richard Cadbury was the first chocolatier to produce the first official Valentine’s Day themed box of chocolates in the late 1800’s. This year it is estimated that 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold.
Understandably, the romantic holiday has become a popular time for marriage proposals, with an average of 220,000 questions popped on the day each year. This means it is a fantastic time for jewellers, and jewellery has become a staple gift between lovers, with proposal or not.
This western tradition has trickled across the globe and integrated into other cultures and now many other countries have put their own stamp on it.
For example, on February 14 in South Korea, the tradition is for only women to give chocolate to men, a month later on March 14 the men then return the favour by giving non chocolate sweets to women - this is known as white day. On April 14, the unlucky in love Koreans who did not receive any chocolates or sweets will go to a Chinese-Korean restaurant to eat black noodles - this is known as Black day.
In Brazil, Valentine’s day is known as Dia dos Namorados, which translates to Lovers day, and is celebrated on June 12 when traditionally single women would perform rituals called simpatias in order to aid them in finding their one true love.
The Japanese, like with most things, have a unique way of communicating the language of love. Unlike western countries, gifts such as cards, flowers and jewellery aren’t as common. Chocolate acts as the centrepiece for this holiday and and most of the sentiment is about giving the right amount of chocolate to each person. Many women will feel obliged to give out chocolates to every man they work or socialise with, giving “giri-choko” or “obligatory chocolates” out to those they don’t desire, and giving“honmei-choko” or “true feeling chocolate” to their loved ones. Men are then expected to return gifts up to three times the value of that which they received. With this is mind it is no surprise that chocolate companies make half their annual sales during this time of the year.
Less romantic, but still as sweet, Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä, and Estonia Valentine's Day is sõbrapäev, which both translate to “Friend’s day”. The day is used for celebrating friendship over lovers, recognising the
In recent years in the UK we have seen an uprise in celebrating friendship over romance. February 13 has not been coined Galentines day, thanks to women all around who saw a flaw in the traditionalist way we perceive love. Now women (and men) have their own date on the calendar to celebrate the unbreakable bond they share with their gal-pals.
Whatever your culture, whether you are single, in a relationship, it is important to celebrate the most precious of human gifts - love.
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