Valentine’s Day has a different meaning for everyone. For some, it’s a day to celebrate their relationship with their partner, and for others, they celebrate their friendships. However, no matter what the meaning of Valentine’s Day is to you, different countries and cultures all celebrate a little bit differently.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th and was originally a Christian feast to celebrate Saint Valentine. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the lovebirds and love notions of the period changed the holiday into a more love-oriented celebration. In England, during the 18th century, it changed to couples celebrating their love by exchanging flowers, sweets, and cards. From the 19th century to the current time, love notes have been mass-produced into greeting cards.
In China, Valentine’s Day is referred to as “Lover’s Festival”. It celebrates the day on which a legendary cowherd and a weaving maid could be together. In Japan, the holiday was introduced much later, around 1936. There, they have a custom for women to give the men chocolates, specifically from women workers to their co-workers. However, greeting cards, flowers, dates, and candies aren’t given. Companies in a plot to make more money then invented White Day (celebrated on March 14th), on which men could give gifts to the women who had previously given them chocolates.
In Europe, things are celebrated a little differently. In Wales, some of the population celebrates St. Dwynwen’s Day on January 25th. This saint is the Welsh patron saint of love. Some people in Wales celebrate this holiday, as well as Valentine’s Day. In Ireland, those who are seeking love make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Valentine. There, they pray for love and write their prayers down in a book at the bottom of the shrine. In Portugal, the holiday is known as “Lover’s Day”, on which lovers exchange gifts. Some women will give their lovers handkerchiefs with love motifs embroidered on them.
Here in America we have similar customs to those in other western countries. As we all know, the holiday has been greatly commercialized and has become one of the major gift and card exchanging days in the US. People will exchange cards, flowers, chocolates, and candies. Couples will meet up for dinner dates to recognize the day as well. One big difference between the US and most other countries is the school celebration. Many of us American students may recall coming in on Valentine’s Day with a big ziplock of valentines to give to everyone in the class. Here, Valentine’s Day isn’t just for the couples! Valentine’s Day takes on many different names and has different customs around the world, but one overall theme is love and giving to those we truly care about.
Graphic: Bronwyn Spencer, Isabella Harelick, Tess Cundiff