Except for maybe those skeptics who view it as simply a made-up holiday created for retailers hoping to sell cards, Valentine’s Day is a day dedicated to romance and love. It’s a holiday that’s celebrated by millions of people around the world each year, and, unfortunately for the skeptics, its history has been well documented.
Valentine’s Day can be traced from its beginning as a Pagan festival called Lupercalia, to its dedication to Saint Valentine by Pope Gelasius in the 5th century, to its transformation into the celebration of love we know today, shaped by the modern card making tradition of Esther A. Howland, the “Mother of the Valentine”.
While this history is shared, the traditions held by those who celebrate vary widely.
In addition to exchanging cards and flowers, men also write women funny poems or rhymes on paper cut in a way similar to a paper snowflake. This “joking letter,” called a Gækkebrev, is signed only with anonymous dots, and if the woman “…can correctly guess the sender, she earns herself an Easter egg later that year.”
February 14 is just the kickoff for this months-long, February-to-April celebration of love. On that day “…it’s up to the women to woo their men with chocolates, candies, and flowers.” A month later, on March 14th, or White Day, it’s up to the men to reciprocate and “…up the ante with a gift.” For those who are single, April 14 hosts Black Day, where singles gather and eat Jajangmyeon, or black bean-paste noodles in reference to their wounded hearts.
Rather than celebrating Saint Valentine, the Welsh version of Valentine’s Day honors the Welsh patron Saint of lovers, Saint Dwynwen, on January 25. In a beautiful display of commitment and love (and talent), lovers exchange “…intricately carved wooden spoons, known as love spoons.” Every spoon is carved with an original combination of patterns and symbols, each representing a different meaning or telling a unique story.
Probably one of the coolest Valentine’s Day celebrations takes place in the Philippines. While much of the traditions adopted are those of western culture, i.e. cards and gifts, mass Valentine’s Day weddings are now the norm, so much so that the government has taken to sponsoring the events. As a result, a large number of couples celebrate anniversaries either of weddings or vow renewals on the same date.
How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day?