Valentine’s Day Through Time and Around the Globe


In the beginning…

The origins of Valentine’s Day are largely disputed. There are many inaccurate tales and made up myths. However, one story comes perfectly full circle. It’s details may be romanticized or twisted as it’s theme correlates perfectly to the modern context of Valentine’s Day. But what’s February 14th without a little idealization.

This ancient story begins with the banning of Christian marriages by the hand of Emperor Claudius the Second. This did not sit well with Saint Valentine. He began to gain a reputation as someone that would perform marriage ceremonies in secrecy. When the Emperor received word of this it did not particularly sit well with him. St. Valentine was convicted with treason and sentenced to death. While in captivity, awaiting his execution he had promptly taken a liking to his jailer’s daughter. When his day came he left her a note. The fateful message was signed “Your Valentine”.

So who is Saint Valentine, exactly? Good question because his identity is widely disputed. There are several men by the name of Valentine that have also been dubbed saints. The story most commonly told includes secret marriages, executions, and love notes.

Roman Tradition

Whispers of the first Valentine’s Day celebration were found in an ancient Roman celebration. The gala began on February 13th and lasted until the 15th. It was a fertility festival, and those in attendance drew a name from a box and coupled away with the lucky person.

Romans are also credited with the derivation of a significant Valentine’s day figure. Cupid was directly adopted from the Roman god of love.

Grecian Customs

Grecian trace of our modern holiday was found in the celebration of Zeus and Hera’s marriage. Their festivities began mid-winter.

Japan’s celebrations

Modern Japanese traditions stem from American norms. Instead of both romantic partners gifting each other on February 14 only one of them spoils the other until White Day. White Day lands on March 14th. This day is to return the favor to their suitors with a much bigger gesture. This system also serves secret admirers that are ready to surrender their identity. If someone has a crush they could gift their pursuit and wait to see if the favor will be returned on White Day.

A popular present is chocolate. However, the type of chocolate given and received is important. Store bought candies indicate a casual, platonic, or family relationship. If someone were to receive homemade chocolate they should assume that they hold a special place in the gifters heart.

French ritual

France is the home of Paris, the city of love and romance is especially electric during the Valentine’s day season. It is predominantly a holiday celebrated by couples exclusively. It is not common to receive a valentine from a friend, or a child.