Feast of Saint Valentine or the Saint Valentine’s Day is commonly known as the Valentine’s Day across the world. It is celebrated every year on 14th of February.
It is an annual holiday and had originated from Christian traditions and culture. This day had originally started as holding a feast in the honor of one or more saints who were called Valentinus.
This particular day has much cultural significance across various countries even though it is not listed under the public holidays.
Saint Valentine of Rome’s hagiographical account indicated that he was imprisoned for performing the weddings of the soldiers who were forbidden to get married and for attending to the Christians as the Roman Empire was following anti-Christian policies in those times.
As the legend goes, Saint Valentine, during his period of imprisonment had cured his jailer’s daughter, Asterius. Before he was executed he had written a farewell letter to her and signed it off as “Your Valentine”. This day was first associated with love and affection in the 14th century during the time of the greatest English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.
However in the 18th century England this day evolved into a day when all people would send flowers, handwritten cards, confectioneries and gifts to express their love and affection toward their Valentines or the special ones. In Europe it is a tradition to gift Saint Valentine’s key to the lovers as it signifies the invitation or request to unlock the heart of the person who gifts the key.
It is also given to children as this key is believed to prevent epilepsy which is also known as Saint Valentine’s Malady. People nowadays associate heart, doves, and cupid’s arrow with Valentine’s Day. It is a day of feast in the Lutheran Churches and also in the Anglican Communion. Although many Orthodox Catholic Churches celebrate this day on 6th July in the honor of Saint Valentine and 30th July in the honor of Hieromartyr Valentine.
The European traditions associated with the Valentine’s Day and Saint Valentine has become insignificant over the years and is merely celebrated as the day for giving gifts to the special someone by the Anglo American culture.
Apart from these modern traditions, there are still some associations that connect the saint with the arrival of spring and maintain the main essence of this day. Even though the tradition of sending flowers, chocolates, gifts and cards had originated in the United Kingdom, various customs and regional traditions are still carried out in various parts of Europe on this day.
It a tradition in Norfolk for a character called Jack Valentine to knock and leave various sweets, gifts and other treats for children in front of the rear door of the houses. Even though this mysterious person leaves behind treats, children are still terrified of him. However in Slovenia, Zdravko or Saint Valentine is considered one of the saints of spring and good health.
He is also considered to be the patron of pilgrims and beekeepers. Here trees and plants are seen to start growing on this day and the flowers are seen to bloom. It is also celebrated as the day when the work in fields and vineyards begin. People also believe that the birds marry and propose each other on this day of the year.
It was only in the recent past that this day was marked as the day of love and affection and various modern traditions crept in. Originally the day of love was observed on 12th March which was the Saint Gregory’s Day or 22nd February which was the Saint Vincent’s Day. However Saint Anthony was considered to be the patron of love and his day is celebrated on 13th June.
Across the world
Brazil: The Lover’s Day or the Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 12th of June, on the day before the Saint Anthony’s Day who is believed to be the Saint of marriage. On this day many unmarried women perform “simpatias” which is ritual to find a good husband or a good partner. The couples exchange cards, flowers, chocolates and various other gifts to appreciate each other’s effort and to convey love on this day. Here 14th of February is not celebrated because it either falls just before or just after the Brazilian Carnival.
United States of America: Approximately 190 million of Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged every year on this day. The couples gift each other various things and also go on romantic dates on this day. The average spending on Valentine’s Day has risen from 108 dollars per person to 131 dollars.
China: According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Chinese Valentine’s day is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month and is called “Qixi festival”. As the legend says, the cowherd star and the weaver maid star which are separated from each other by the Milky Way are allowed to meet by crossing it on this day of the year.
India: In older times there was a tradition of dearly loving and adoring the God of love, Kamadeva, illustrations of which can still be found on Khajuraho group of monuments and in Kama sutra, the book of lovemaking. However this tradition was lost in the middle ages when display of sexual affection was forbidden. The Valentine’s Day started gaining popularity from the year 1992 with the spreading done by TV channels and advertisements.