A Interesting History Of Valentine's Day
A Cultural History Of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day – the first major holiday after the New Year and before the springtime celebration of Easter. This love-centered holiday has been a favorite of romantics for generations, but how did this tradition get started?
Why is it celebrated on February 14th? Who was the first person to send a Valentine’s Day card or Buy flowers? How did giving candy to one another become a tradition? Where is this holiday celebrated? For A Interesting History of Valentine’s Day, read on!
A Celebration of Affection
In many ancient cultures, most of the holidays celebrated were centered around religious rituals and ceremonial observances. Even rituals like baby naming, marriages, and funerals had strong religious components; experts believe that secular celebrations such as we have today were not widely known. Still, people have always wanted to celebrate the things that are important to them and being in love has always been very important indeed.
The Early Roots of Valentine’s Day
Historians and scholars have long sought to explain the origins of Valentine’s Day. Some authors have suggested that the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia gave this holiday its association with love, fertility, and sexuality. Lupercalia was celebrated in the city of Rome in honor of the city’s mythic founding. According to the myth, the twin boys Romulus and Remus were nurtured by a mother wolf; years later, the boys who owed their survival to a wolf went on to found the city of Rome. Other authors connect Valentine’s Day with Roman festivals honoring the goddess Juno, the queen of the gods and protector of women.
Regardless of what particular festival or observance Valentine’s Day came from, its connection to love and romance was well known by the time Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his famous work, The Canterbury Tales. Writing in 1382, Chaucer states that Valentine’s Day is when birds choose their mates. Even so, the precise date upon which the holiday fell is unclear. By the time Shakespeare wrote his famous plays and poems, Valentine’s Day was firmly established as a romantic observance. Other letters and poems from the same period contain references to the writers’ “Valentines” – their beloveds.
Establishing Valentine’s Day Traditions
Just as medieval and Renaissance poets expressed their affection through verse, so later writers would compose letters and poems to their own sweethearts. By the late eighteenth century the association of romantic poetry with Valentine’s Day was widespread. Advancing printing technology made it possible for people to purchase small printed cards to give to one another. These early Valentine’s Day cards would have had a small picture and a romantic verse, very much like what you would expect to find for sale at a card shop today.
Paper valentines with pre-printed sentiments proved exceptionally popular. Early printing businesses only produced a handful of these cards, but by the nineteenth century there were entire factories in England dedicated to the production of paper valentines. Today it’s possible to find many of these old fashioned valentines for sale in antique stores. Little hand written notes on these cards reveal that feelings of love and affection are truly timeless
Modern Valentine’s Day Celebrations
Today, Valentine’s Day is set aside as a holiday focused on celebrating all kinds of love, both romantic and friendly. Many public schools in the United States hold Valentine’s Day parties where students give a small card to everyone in the class. In the US, UK, and Canada, couples make dinner reservations at the favorite restaurants, exchange meaningful gifts, and send each other cards. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is a time for women to give chocolates to the men in their lives; usually the recipients of these sweet presents are boyfriends or husbands, though a woman may also give chocolates to male classmates, peers, or workplace associates. In contrast to Valentine’s Day chocolates in other parts of the world, there’s a good chance that the chocolates a Japanese woman might give have been homemade. Interestingly, on March 14th – a month after Valentine’s Day – the Japanese holiday known as White Day is an occasion for men to return the favor by giving the women gifts of chocolate in return. China, Taiwan, and South Korea have similar traditions.
Valentine’s Day has become one of the most popular holidays of the western cultural calendar, though it is also one of the most mysterious. The exact origins behind this holiday will probably never be known. What is known, however, is that lovers, friends, and sweethearts continue to enjoy the opportunity to express their love to one another. Clearly, Valentine’s Day is here to stay.
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