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Opinion

Valentine’s Day has various world traditions

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February 7, 2013

Valentine’s Day comes to us every year on Feb. 14. While it is one of the most if not the most commercial holiday of the year, it is also amongst the most hated holidays of the year by many singles across the nation as well as around the entire world.

While Valentine’s Day is known for giving flowers, cards and chocolates to friends and that significant other, it is also important to remember that it has a very vivid historical background. The “lovely” holiday would not exist had it not been for various religious figures and events. Along with the history, several countries around the world have their own way of celebrating this heart-filled day on the 12 month calendar.

Valentine’s Day, also known as St. Valentine’s Day, began as an early liturgical celebration revolving around a number of Christian saints or martyrs called “Valentinus.” One of the most popular tales about St. Valentine was when he had been imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry, and for ministering to Christians who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. He had wanted to help these Christians escape from persecution. It was during his imprisonment that it was believed he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, prior to his execution. He wrote a note saying, “From your Valentine” as a farewell to her.

The day’s association with romantic love circulated as early as the High Middle Ages, within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer. This is where courtly loves started to flourish among individuals. The commercial aspect of the holiday began in the 15th Century. This was when lovers started to present their love for each other using flowers and greeting cards, dubbed then as “valentines.” This led to the growing popularity of handwritten cards and, since the 19th Century, mass produced greeting cards.

Today, the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church recognize St. Valentine’s Day as a day to feast. The Eastern Orthodox church also celebrates the holiday, though they celebrate it on July 6, in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and July 30, in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna. The Roman Catholic Church no longer celebrates the day with a feast, because these saints, though ancient and holy, were not particularly well known.

What is known is where these saints have been buried. Well-known and secular symbols of the holiday include the heart shaped outline, a dove, and the figure of the winged cupid. Most people today recognize Valentine’s Day as a secular holiday and a day for love and affection.

In the United Kingdom, many of the same traditions are observed as in the United States. However, in Norfolk, a character named Jack Valentine knocks on the rear door of homes and leaves sweets as presents. Despite this, most children, are known to be afraid of him. In Wales, people celebrate Saint Dwynwen’s Day on Jan. 25 instead of Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day in France is celebrated just like other countries, despite the country’s Catholic roots. San Valentín in Spain is celebrated just like the United Kingdom, with the exception of Catalonia. In Catalonia, rose or book giving is a large part of the holiday, coinciding with Saint Jorge’s Day.

Portugal has similar celebrations to other countries, though the holiday is referred to as Día dos Namorados, or “Lover’s” Day.

Valentinsdag in Denmark and Norway is not largely observed, though people will set a small amount of time for a romantic dinner with their partner or an exchanging of cards. The flower industry in these countries is still trying to promote the holiday more.
All Hearts Day is not an official holiday in Sweden but is observed thanks to the flower industry, a day where more flowers are sold than on Mother’s Day.
Many other countries around the world have their own traditions on Valentine’s Day, though nothing vastly different from traditions here in the United States. The holiday is mostly celebrated in the west, though countries in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East use the day to observe love, friendship and Earth. The holiday is celebrated on other days of the year in various places instead of Feb. 14.

However, many countries in the Middle East look down on this particular holiday, as it is known to be against Muslims and Islamic culture. Saudi Arabia, for example, has banned the holiday altogether since it is a Christian holiday. They forbid shops to sell red items or items pertaining to the holiday, though items are sold on a black market.
In love or not, Valentine’s Day can be celebrated by everybody. Buy some chocolate.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.