VALENTINE’S DAY

ARE THERE SPECIAL SIGNS AND/OR SYMBOLS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY?

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It’s not difficult to figure out the connection between the heart and Valentine’s Day. The heart, after all, was thought in ancient times to be the source of all emotions. It later came to be associated only with the emotion of love. Today, we know that the heart is the pump that keeps blood flowing through our bodies.

How about the “X” sign representing a kiss? This tradition started with the Medieval practice of allowing those who could not write to sign documents with an “X”. This was done before witnesses, and the signer placed a kiss upon the “X” to show sincerity. This is how the kiss came to be synonymous with the letter “X”, and how the “X” came to be commonly used at the end of letters as kiss symbols. (Some believed “X” was chosen as a variation on the cross symbol, while others believe it might have been a pledge in the name of Christ, since the “X” — or Chi symbol — is the twenty-second letter of the Greek alphabet and has been used in church history to represent Christ.)

It became easier to mail valentines in the mid-1800s, when the modern postal service implemented the penny post. Until then, postage was so pricey that most cards were delivered by hand. Some people still make their own valentines. Most parents think these are the best kind.   The modern valentine card has become increasingly sophisticated, keeping pace with popular technological advances. For example, there are cards that let you record a romantic message, “scratch-and-sniff” cards and cards that play romantic music.

A variety of interesting Valentine’s Day traditions developed over time. For example, hundreds of years ago in England, children dressed up as adults on Valentine’s Day and went singing holiday verses from door to door.

In Wales, wooden love spoons, carved with key, keyhole and heart designs were given as gifts.

The rose, representing love, is probably the only flower with a meaning that is universally understood. The red rose remains the most popular flower bought by men in the United States for their sweethearts. In more recent years, people have sent their sweethearts their favorite flowers, rather than automatically opting for roses. Also making the list of valentine favorites are tulips, lilies, daisies and carnations.   Roses have always been the subject of great importance and a certain hit with the lovers all around the world. Roses symbolize love, compassion, peace, friendship and romance. They are available in various colors, each in turn signifying a different thing. Red for passion, Yellow for friendship and White stands for true love and devotion. Red roses were said to be the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Also, red is a color that signifies strong feelings.

The gift of flowers on Valentine’s Day probably dates to the early 1700s when Charles II of Sweden brought the Persian poetical art called “the language of flowers” to Europe. Throughout the 18th century, floral lexicons were published, allowing secrets to be exchanged with a lily or lilac, and entire conversations to take place in a bouquet of flowers. The more popular the flower, the more traditions and meanings have been associated with it.

Today, just about anything goes for a Valentine’s Day gift, depending on the recipient’s tastes.

It’s not clear when the valentine heart shape became the symbol for the heart. Some scholars speculate that the heart symbol as we use it to signify romance or love came from early attempts by people to draw an organ they’d never seen.   Nothing symbolizes love more completely as does the heart. And for a romantic person there is no other symbol as important as heart. Heart signifies the life and if you give your heart to someone it means to handover to her or him one’s existence. The heart pierced with arrow forms the most important symbol of Valentine’s Day.

Cupid, the winged and mischievous little angel pierces the hearts of his victims with his bows and arrows. The Greeks called him Eros whereas to the Romans he was known by the name of Cupid, the son of Venus. Cupid is thought to be responsible for people falling in love

Ribbons and frills are synonymous with love and romance since time immemorial. These were given to the kings and knights by their beloved ones when they went to battles. Even to this day the ribbons form an important part of auspicious occasions.  

Lace has long been used to make women’s handkerchiefs. Hundreds of years ago, if a woman dropped her handkerchief, a man might pick it up for her. Sometimes, if she had her eye on the right man, a woman might intentionally drop her handkerchief to encourage him. So, people began to think of romance when they thought of lace.

The belief that birds find their mates on this special day still continues and today’s world is no exception to it. The blue colored birds’ best signify this belief. It is said that lovebirds can’t think of life without their mates. The Dove on the other hand signifies purity, humbleness and purity and wholesomeness.   Love-birds are colorful birds found in Africa, are so named because they sit closely together in pairs — like sweethearts do. Doves are symbols of loyalty and love, because they mate for life and share the care of their babies.

It was believed that birds chose their mates on February 14.  And so the dove was chosen to be the bird representative because it was sacred to the Roman Goddess Venus because it chose a lifelong mate.  They also make a cooing sound, which further proved they were the love couple. The dove was also a sacred bird to the Goddess, Venus (and other Love Deities).  And Noah had considered the dove to be his messenger. In the Song of Solomon, the word “Turtle” is really referring to the “turtledove.” The turtledove is common in Asia and Europe, but it is not found in N. America at all. Since all doves are part of the pigeon family, they mate for life and the male and female both share in the caring of their young.  Their cooing sounds are often considered “love sounds” and today it is often said that when people in love talk rather sugary and baby-like it is “cooing” with each other. 

But during the years, love birds have changed from Doves to hummingbirds to birds of paradises.  Today, love birds depicted on Valentines are tiny parrots brilliant in color because genetically they really are in the parrot family. They often act like young lovers also. How? They are known for living in pairs and keeping to themselves, much like young lovers want their privacy today. As pets they are considered loveable, easy to tame and respond to affection.  Some can even be taught to speak.

Love Knots – The fashion of sending love knots is traced backed to the Arabic traditions where young Muslim Women in traditional and orthodox households expressed their love and affection via the medium of love knots. These women used to send their love messages to their beloved one’s woven in the knots of a carpet. The concept of love knots continues to exist even to this day.   Love knots have series of winding and interlacing loops with no beginning and no end. A symbol of everlasting love, love knots were made from ribbon or drawn on paper.

Kathy Kiefer

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THE HISTORY AND MEANING OF VALENTINE’S DAY

Saint Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is a holiday observed on February 14th each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it is not a holiday in most of them. This is just a small glimpse in to the meaning and history of the holiday.

St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14th, and added to later martyrologies. A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell. Today, Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine’s Day, albeit on July 6th and July 30th, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni). In Brazil, the Dai de Sao Valentin is recognized on June 12th.

The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the high middle ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines“). In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children, in order to ward off Saint Valentine’s Malady. Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards

February 14th is celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day in various Christian Denominations; it has, for example, the rank of ‘commemoration’ in the calendar of Saints in the Anglican Communion. In addition, the feast day of Saint Valentine is also given in the calendar of saints of the Lutheran Church. However, in the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14th was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.” The feast day is still celebrated in Malta where relics of the saint are claimed to be found, and also throughout the world by Traditionalist Catholics who follow the older, pre-Second Vatican Council calendar. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on July 6th, in which Saint Valentine, the Roman presbyter, is honored; furthermore, the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30th.

Another embellishment is that Saint Valentine would have performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. However, this supposed marriage ban was never issued, and in fact Claudius II told his soldiers to take two or three women for themselves after his victory over the Goths.

According to legend, in order “to remind these men of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment”, giving them to these soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on St. Valentine’s Day.

Saint Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring, customarily worn on the hands of Christian bishops with an image of Cupid engraved in it, a recognizable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire; Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask him to perform marriage for them. Probably due to the association with Saint Valentine, amethyst has become the birthstone of February, which is thought to attract love.

While the European folk traditions connected with Saint Valentine and St. Valentine’s Day have become marginalized by the modern Anglo-American customs connecting the day with romantic love, there are some remaining associations connecting the saint with the advent of spring.

While the custom of sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts originated in the UK, Valentine’s Day still remains connected with various regional customs in England. In Norfolk, a character called ‘Jack’ Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children. Although he was leaving treats, many children were scared of this mystical person.

In Slovenia, Saint Valentine was one of the saints of spring, the saint of good health and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims. A proverb says that “Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots”. Plants and flowers start to grow on this day. It has been celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards and in the fields commences. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day. Another proverb says “Valentine — the first spring saint”, as in some places (especially White Camiola); Saint Valentine marks the beginning of spring. Valentine’s Day has only recently been celebrated as the day of love. The day of love was traditionally March 12th, Saint Gregory’s day, or February 22nd, Saint Vincent’s Day. The patron of love was Saint Anthony, whose day has been celebrated on June 13th.

There is no evidence of any link between St. Valentine’s Day and the rites of the ancient Roman festival, despite many claims by many authors. The celebration of Saint Valentine did not have any romantic connotations until Chaucer’s poetry about “Valentines” in the 14th century.

Popular modern sources claim links to unspecified Greco-Roman February holidays alleged to be devoted to fertility and love to St. Valentine’s Day, but prior to Chaucer in the 14th century, there were no links between the Saints named Valentinus and romantic love. Earlier links as described above were focused on sacrifice rather than romantic love. In the ancient Athenian calendar the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera.

In Ancient Rome, Lupercalia, observed February 13–15, was an archaic rite connected to fertility. Lupercalia was a festival local to the city of Rome. The more general Festival of Juno Februa, meaning “Juno the purifier “or “the chaste Juno”, was celebrated on February 13–14. Pope Gelasius I (492–496) abolished Lupercalia. Some researchers have theorized that Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with the celebration of the Purification of Maryon February 14th and claim a connection to the 14th century’s connotations of romantic love, but there is no historical indication that he ever intended such a thing. Also, the dates don’t fit because at the time of Gelasius I the feast was only celebrated in Jerusalem, and it was on February 14th only because Jerusalem placed the Nativity on January 6th. Although it was called “Purification of Mary”, it dealt mainly with the presentation of Jesus at the temple. The Jerusalem’s Purification of Mary on February 14th became the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple on February 2nd as it was introduced to Rome and other places in the sixth century, after Gelasius I’s time.

The earliest description of February 14th as an annual celebration of love appears in the Charter of the Court of Love. The charter, allegedly issued by Charles VI of France at Mantes-la-Jolie in 1400, describes lavish festivities to be attended by several members of the royal court, including a feast, amorous song and poetry competitions, jousting and dancing. Amid these festivities, the attending ladies would hear and rule on disputes from lovers. No other record of the court exists, and none of those named in the charter were present at Mantes except Charles’s queen, who may well have imagined it all while waiting out a plague.

In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which contained scores of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own. Printers had already begun producing a limited number of cards with verses and sketches, called “mechanical valentines,” and a reduction in postal rates in the next century ushered in the less personal but easier practice of mailing Valentines. That, in turn, made it possible for the first time to exchange cards anonymously, which is taken as the reason for the sudden appearance of racy verse in an era otherwise prudishly Victorian.

Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories. Fancy Valentines were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid-19th century. In 1835, 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in Britain, despite postage being expensive.   In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland (1828–1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father operated a large book and stationery store, but Howland took her inspiration from an English Valentine she had received from a business associate of her father. Intrigued with the idea of making similar Valentines, Howland began her business by importing paper lace and floral decorations from England. A writer in Graham’s American Monthly observed in 1849, “Saint Valentine’s Day … is becoming, nay it has become, a national holyday.”

Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. In the UK, just under half of the population spend money on their Valentines and around £1.3 billion is spent yearly on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts, with an estimated 25 million cards being sent. The mid-19th century Valentine’s Day trade was a harbinger of further commercialized holidays in the United States to follow. In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts. Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped box. In the 1980s, the Diamond industry began to promote Valentine’s Day as an occasion for giving jewelry.

The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. Half of those valentines are given to family members other than husband or wife, usually to children. When the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities are included the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines. The average valentine’s spending has increased every year in the U.S, from $108 a person in 2010 to $131 in 2013.

 Kathy Kiefer

VALENTINE’S DAY AROUND THE WORLD

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VALENTINE’S DAY AROUND THE WORLD

While researching the history and traditions of St. Valentine’s Day, I came across some fascinating information on the traditions/history of the holiday around the globe.

The earliest surviving valentine is a 15th-century rondeau written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, which commences:

Je suis desja d’amour tanné
Ma tres doulce Valentinée…

At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt (1415).

The earliest surviving valentines in English appear to be those in the Paston Letters, written in 1477 by Margery Brewes to her future husband John Paston “my right well-beloved Valentine”.

Due to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in some East Asian countries with China and South Korea spending the most money on Valentine’s gifts.   In China, the common situation is the man gives chocolate, flowers or both to the woman that he loves. In Chinese, Valentine’s Day is called lovers’ festival.   The so-called “Chinese Valentine’s Day” is the Qixi Festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. It commemorates a day on which a legendary cow herder and weaving maid are allowed to be together. Valentine’s Day on February 14 is not celebrated because it is often too close to the Chinese New Year, which usually falls on either January or February.  In Chinese culture, there is an older observance related to lovers, called “The Night of Sevens”.  According to the legend, the Cowherd star and the Weaver Maid star are normally separated by the  Milky Way (silvery river) but are allowed to meet by crossing it on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar.

In Finland, Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä which translates into “Friend’s Day”. As the name indicates, this day is more about remembering all your friends, not only your loved ones.

In Estonia, Valentine’s Day is called Sõbrapäev, whose meaning has the same translation as the Finish and celebrated in the same fashion.

In France, a traditionally Catholic country, Valentine’s Day is known simply as “Saint Valentin,” and is celebrated in much the same way as other western countries.

St. Valentine’s Day in Greek tradition was not associated with romantic love; In the Eastern Orthodox church there is another Saint who protects people who are in love, Hyacinth of Caesarea (feast day July 3rd ), but in contemporary Greece, this tradition has mostly been superseded by the “globalized” form of Valentine’s Day.

In India, in antiquity, there was a tradition of adoring Kamadeva, the lord of love; exemplified by the erotic carvings in the Khajuraho Group of Monuments and by the writing of the Kama sutra treaty of lovemaking. This tradition was lost around the Middle Ages, when Kamadeva was no longer celebrated, and public displays of sexual affection became frowned upon. This repression of public affections persisted until the 1990s.  In the state of West Bengal, Saraswati Puja, a festival observed in early spring where Sarawati,  the goddess of learning is worshiped; has often been seen as a Bengali version of Valentine’s Day; especially among the urban middle class youth.    Valentine’s Day celebrations didn’t catch on in India until around 1992. It was spread due to the programs in commercial TV channels, such as MTV, dedicated radio programs and love letter competitions, in addition to an economical liberalization that allowed the explosion of the valentine card industry.   Economic liberalization also helped the Valentine card industry.  The celebration has caused a sharp change on how people have been displaying their affection in public since the Middle Ages.

In modern times, Hindu and Islamic traditionalists have considered the holiday to be cultural contamination from the West, a result of the globalization in India.   Asaram Bapu, the Hindu leader of the Sant Sri Asaramji Ashram has stated that “Those who celebrate ‘Valentine’s Day’ in the present manner do in fact insult the saint himself; for they try to start a love-affair before their actual marriage by sending Valentine cards to one another. Had St. Valentine supported this system, he would not have solemnized the marriages in the first place.”  Shiv Sena and the Sangh Parivar have asked their followers to shun the holiday and the “public admission of love” because of them being “alien to Indian culture”.  Although these protests are organized by political elites, the protesters themselves are middle-class Hindu men who fear that the globalization will destroy the traditions in their society:  arranged marriages.  Hindu joint families, full-time mothers, and so forth.

Despite these obstacles, Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly popular in India.

Valentine’s Day has been strongly criticized from a post-colonial perspective by intellectuals from the Indian left. The holiday is regarded as a front for “Western imperialism”, “neo-colonialism,” and “the exploitation of working classes through commercialism by multi-national corporations.”  Studies have shown that Valentine’s Day promotes and exacerbates income inequality in India, and aids in the creation of a pseudo-westernized middle class.  As a result, the working classes and rural poor become more disconnected socially, politically, and geographically from the hegemonic capitalist power structure. They also criticize mainstream media attacks on Indians opposed to Valentine’s Day as a form of demonization that is designed and derived to further the Valentine’s Day agenda.  Right wing Hindu nationalists are also hostile. In February 2012 couples were warned that they cannot kiss or hug in public places or they will be beaten up.  He said “We are not against love, but we criticize vulgar exhibition of love at public places”.

In Iran, the Sepandamazgan, or Esfandegan, is a festival where people express love towards their mothers and wives, and it is also a celebration of earth in ancient Persian culture. It has been progressively forgotten in favor of the Western celebration of Valentine’s Day. The Association of Iran’s Cultural and Natural Phenomena has been trying since 2006 to make Sepandarmazgan a national holiday on 17 February, in order to replace the Western holiday.

In Israel, the Jewish tradition of Tu B’Av has been revived and transformed into the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Av (usually in late August). In ancient times girls would wear white dresses and dance in the vineyards, where the boys would be waiting for them.  Today, Tu Be’av is celebrated as a second holiday of love by secular people (besides Saint Valentine’s Day), and it shares many of the customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day in western societies. In modern Israeli culture Tu Be’av is a popular day to pronounce love, propose marriage and give gifts like cards or flowers.

In Japan, Morozoff, Ltd. introduced the holiday for the first time in 1936, when it ran an advertisement aimed at foreigners. Later in 1953 it began promoting the giving of heart-shaped chocolates; other Japanese confectionery companies followed suit thereafter. In 1958 the Isetan department store ran a “Valentine sale”. Further campaigns during the 1960s popularized the custom.     The custom that only women give chocolates to men appears to have originated from the translation error of a chocolate-company executive during the initial campaigns.   In particular, office ladies give chocolate to their co-workers.  Unlike western countries, gifts such as greeting cards, candies, flowers or dinner dates are uncommon, and most of the activity about the gifts is about giving the right amount of chocolate to each person.   Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during this time of the year.    In the 1980s the Japanese National Confectionery Industry Association launched a successful campaign to make March 14 a “reply day”, where men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day, calling it White Day for the color of the chocolates being offered. A previous failed attempt to popularize this celebration had been done by a marshmallow manufacturer who wanted men to return marshmallows to women.

Men are expected to return gifts that are at least two or three times more valuable than the gifts received in Valentine’s Day. Not returning the gift is perceived as the man placing himself in a position of superiority, even if excuses are given. Returning a present of equal value is considered as a way to say that you are cutting the relationship. Originally only chocolate was given, but now the gifts of jewelry, accessories, clothing and lingerie are usual. According to the official website of White Day, the color white was chosen because it’s the color of purity, evoking “pure, sweet teen love”, and because it’s also the color of sugar. The initial name was “Ai ni Kotaeru White Day” (Answer Love on White Day).

In Japan, the romantic “date night” associated to Valentine’s Day is celebrated on Christmas Eve.

A survey of people between 10 and 49 years of age in Japan, Oricon Style found the 1986 Sayuri Kokusho single “Valentine Kiss” to be the most popular Valentine’s Day song, even though it sold only 317,000 copies.  The singles it beat in the ranking were number one selling “Love Love Love” from Dreams Come True and “Valentine’s Radio” from Yumi. The final song in the top five was “My Funny Valentine” by Miles Davis.

In some Latin American countries Valentine’s Day is known as “Día Del Amor y la Amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship).   It is also common to see people perform “acts of appreciation” for their friends. In Guatemala it is known as the “Día del Cariño” (Affection Day).   In Brazil, the Dia dos Namorados ( “Lovers’ Day”, or “Boyfriends’/Girlfriends’ Day”) is celebrated on June 12, probably because that is the day before Saint Anthony’s day, known there as the marriage saint, when traditionally many single women perform popular rituals, called simpatias, in order to find a good husband or boyfriend. Couples exchange gifts, chocolates, cards and flower bouquets. The February 14th Valentine’s Day is not celebrated at all because it usually falls too little before or too little after the Brazilian Carnival  — that can fall anywhere from early February to early March and lasts almost a week. Because of the absence of Valentine’s Day and due to the celebrations of the Carnivals, Brazil is a popular tourist spot during February for Western singles who want to get away from the holiday.

In most of Latin America the Día del amor y la amistad and the Amigo secreto (“Secret friend”) are quite popular and are usually celebrated together on the 14th of February (one exception is Columbia,  where it is celebrated on the third Saturday in September). The latter consists of randomly assigning to each participant a recipient who is to be given an anonymous gift (similar to the Christmas tradition of Secret Santa).

In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is called Hearts Day, and is celebrated in much the same manner as in the West. It is usually marked by a steep increase in the price of flowers, particularly red roses.

In Portugal it is more commonly referred to as “Dia dos Namorados” (Lover’s Day / Day of the Enamored).

In Romania, the traditional holiday for lovers is Dragobete, which is celebrated on February 24. It is named after a character from Romanian folklore who was supposed to be the son of Baa Dochia.  Part of his name is the word drag (“dear”), which can also be found in the word dragoste (“love”). In recent years, Romania has also started celebrating Valentine’s Day, despite already having Dragobete as a traditional holiday. This has drawn backlash from several groups, institutions and nationalist organizations like Noua Dreapta, who condemn Valentine’s Day for being superficial, commercialist and imported Western kitsch

In Denmark and Norway, although February 14 is known as Valentinsdag, it is not celebrated to a large extent, but is largely imported from American culture, and some people take time to eat a romantic dinner with their partner, to send a card to a secret love or give a red rose to their loved one. The cut-flower industry in particular is still working on promoting the holiday. In Sweden it is called Alla hjärtans dag (“All Hearts’ Day”) and was launched in the 1960s by the flower industry’s commercial interests, and due to the influence of American culture. It is not an official holiday, but its celebration is recognized and sales of cosmetics and flowers for this holiday are only exceeded by those for Mother’s Day.

According to findings, Singaporeans are among the biggest spenders on Valentine’s Day, with 60% of Singaporeans indicating that they would spend between $100 and $500 during the season leading up to the holiday.

In South Korea, similar to Japan, women give chocolate to men on February 14, and men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14 (White Day). On April 14 (Black Day), those who did not receive anything on 14 February or March go to a Korean restaurant to eat black noodles and “mourn” their single life.  Koreans also celebrate Pepero Day on November 11, when young couples give each other Pepero cookies. The date ’11/11′ is intended to resemble the long shape of the cookie. The 14th of every month marks a love-related day in Korea, although most of them are obscure. From January to December: Candle Day, Valentine’s Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day.  Korean women give a much higher amount of chocolate than Japanese women.

In Spain Valentine’s Day is known as “San Valentin”  and is celebrated the same way as in the UK, although in Catalonia it is largely superseded by similar festivities of rose and/or book giving on Saint George’s Day.

In Taiwan the situation is the reverse of Japan’s. Men give gifts to women on Valentine’s Day, and women return them on White Day.  

In Wales, many people celebrate St.  Dwynwen’s Day on January 25 instead of (or as well as) Valentine’s Day. The day commemorates St.  Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers.

In the first part of the 21st century, the celebration of Valentine’s Day in Iran has been harshly criticized by Islamic Teachers who see the celebrations as opposed to Islamic culture. In 2011, the Iranian printing works owners’ union issued a directive banning the printing and distribution of any goods promoting the holiday, including cards, gifts and teddy bears.  “Printing and producing any goods related to this day including posters, boxes and cards emblazoned with hearts or half-hearts, red roses and any activities promoting this day are banned… Outlets that violate this will be legally dealt with”, the union warned.

Islamic officials in Malaysia warned Muslims against celebrating Valentine’s Day, linking it with vice activities.  The Deputy Prime Minister stated the celebration of romantic love was “not suitable” for Muslims.  The head of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, which oversees the country’s Islamic policies, said that a ruling issued by the country’s top clerics in 2005 noted that the day ‘is associated with elements of Christianity,’ and ‘we just cannot get involved with other religion’s worshipping rituals.’ Jakim officials planned to carry out a nationwide campaign called “Awas Jerat Valentine’s Day” (“Mind the Valentine’s Day Trap”), aimed at preventing Muslims from celebrating the day on February 14th. Activities include conducting raids in hotels to stop young couples from having unlawful sex and distributing leaflets to Muslim university students warning them against the day.   On Valentine’s Day 2011, Malaysian religious authorities arrested more than 100 Muslim couples concerning the celebration ban. Some of them would be charged in the Shariah Court for defying the department’s ban against the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

The concept of Valentine’s Day was introduced into Pakistan during the late 1990s with special TV and radio programs. The Jamaat-e-Islami political party has called for the banning of Valentine’s Day celebration.  Despite this, the celebration is becoming popular among urban youth and the florists expect to sell a great amount of flowers, especially red roses. The case is the same with card publishers. However, the public at large still considers Valentine’s Day to be opposed to Pakistani culture and Islamic teachings.

In both 2002 and 2008 the religious police in Saudi Arabia, banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, because the day is considered a Christian holiday. This ban has created a black market for roses and wrapping paper.   In 2012 the religious police arrested more than 140 Muslims for celebrating the holiday, and confiscated all red roses from flower shops. Muslims are not allowed to celebrate the holiday, and non-Muslims can celebrate only behind closed doors.

Kathy Kiefer

ST. VALENTINE’S DAY

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ST. VALENTINE’S DAY

Increasing there are more and more people that think and believe that St.  Valentine’s Day was created by the greeting card industry as a way to sell greeting cards and promote giving gifts to a loved one.   This school of thought is so bogus.  Since Valentine’s Day is almost here, I am sharing an insight into some of the history and traditions about how the holiday began.

Saint Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14th each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it remains a working day in most of them.

St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus.   Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14, and added to later martyrologies.  A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire.   According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell.  Today, Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church.  The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine’s Day, albeit on July 6th and July 30th, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Terni. In Brazil, the Dia de Sao Valentim is recognized on June 12.

The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines“). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid.  Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine.  The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni.   Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 496 and was buried on the Via Flaminia.  The relics of Saint Valentine were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which “remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV. The flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Other relics are found at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland. Valentine of Terni became bishop of Terni about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian.  He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni.  “Abstracts of the acts of the two saints were in nearly every church and monastery of Europe.”  The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him. Saint Valentine’s head was preserved in the abbey of New Minster, Winchester, and venerated.

February 14 is celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day in various Christian denominations; it has, for example, the rank of ‘commemoration’ in the calendar of saints in the Anglican Communion.  In addition, the feast day of Saint Valentine is also given in the calendar of saints of the Lutheran Church.  However, in the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Church Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.”  The feast day is still celebrated in Malta, where relics of the saint are claimed to be found, and also throughout the world by Traditionalist Catholics who follow the older, pre-Second Vatican Council calendar. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on July 6th, in which Saint Valentine, the Roman presbyter, is honoured; furthermore, the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30th

It has been written in The Dictionary of Christianity, that Saint Valentine was “a priest of Rome who was imprisoned for succouring persecuted Christians.”  Contemporary records of Saint Valentine were most probably destroyed during this Diocletianic Persecution in the early 4th century.   In the 5th or 6th century, a work called Passio Marii et Marthae published a story of martyrdom for Saint Valentine of Rome, perhaps by borrowing tortures that happened to other saints, as was usual in the literature of that period. The same events are also found in Bede’s Martyrology, which was compiled in the 8th century. It states that Saint Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household came to believe in Jesus and were baptized.  A later Passio repeated the legend, adding that Pope Julius I built a church over his sepulcher (it is confusion with a 4th-century tribune called Valentino who donated land to build a church at a time when Julius was a Pope).  The legend was picked up as fact by later martyrologies, starting by Bede’s martyrology in the 8th century. It was repeated in the 13th century, in Legenda Aurea.  The book expounded briefly the Early Medieval acts of several Saint Valentines, and this legend was assigned to the Valentine under February 14.

There is an additional embellishment to The Golden Legend, which according to Henry Ansgar Kelly, was added centuries later, and widely repeated.  On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first “valentine” card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as “Your Valentine.” The expression “From your Valentine” was later adopted by modern Valentine letters.

Some historians state that Saint Valentine was buried in the Church of Praxedes in Rome, located near the cemetery of Saint Hippolytus.  This order says that according to legend, “Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship.”

Anther embellishment is that Saint Valentine would have performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry.  The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers.  However, this supposed marriage ban was never issued, and in fact Claudius II told his soldiers to take two or three women for themselves after his victory over the Goths.

According to legend, in order “to remind these men of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment”, giving them to these soldiers and persecuted Christians,  a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on St. Valentine’s Day.

Saint Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring, customarily worn on the hands of Christian bishops with an image of Cupid engraved in it, a recognizable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire; Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask him to perform marriage for them. Probably because of the association with Saint Valentine, amethyst has become the birthstone of February, and it’s thought to attract love.

While the European folk traditions connected with Saint Valentine and St. Valentine’s Day have become marginalized by the modern Anglo-American customs connecting the day with romantic love,, there are some remaining associations connecting the saint with the advent of spring.

While the custom of sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts originated in the UK, Valentine’s Day still remains connected with various regional customs in England. In Norfolk, a character called ‘Jack’ Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children. Although he was leaving treats, many children were scared of this mystical person.

In Slovenia, Saint Valentine or Zdravko was one of the saints of Spring, the saint of good health and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims.   A proverb says that “Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots”. Plants and flowers start to grow on this day. It has been celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards and in the fields commences. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day. Another proverb says “Valentine — the first spring saint”, as in some places (especially White Camiola); Saint Valentine marks the beginning of spring.   Valentine’s Day has only recently been celebrated as the day of love. The day of love was traditionally March 12, the Saint Gregory’s Day, or February 22, Saint Vincent’s Day. The patron of love was St. Anthony, whose day has been celebrated on June 13.

Popular modern sources claim links to unspecified Greco-Roman February holidays alleged to be devoted to fertility and love to St. Valentine’s Day, but prior to Chaucer in the 14th century, there were no links between the Saints named Valentinus and romantic love.  Earlier links as described above were focused on sacrifice rather than romantic love. In the ancient Athenian calendar the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera.

In Ancient Rome, Lupercalia, observed February 13–15, was an archaic rite connected to fertility. Lupercalia was a festival local to the city of Rome. The more general Festival of Juno Februa, meaning “Juno the purifier “or “the chaste Juno”, was celebrated on February 13–14. Pope Gelasius I (492–496) abolished Lupercalia. Some researchers have theorized that Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with the celebration of the Purification of Mary on February 14 and claim a connection to the 14th century’s connotations of romantic love, but there is no historical indication that he ever intended such a thing.   Also, the dates don’t fit because at the time of Gelasius I the feast was only celebrated in Jerusalem, and it was on February 14 only because Jerusalem placed the Nativity on January 6th.   Although it was called “Purification of Mary”, it dealt mainly with the presentation of Jesus at the temple.  The Jerusalem’s Purification of Mary in February 14 became the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple on February 2 as it was introduced to Rome and other places in the sixth century, after Gelasius I’s time.

Using the language of the law courts for the rituals of courtly love, a “High Court of Love” was probably established by princess Isabel of Bavaria in Paris in 1400. It was founded on 6 January, the festivity of a Bavarian Saint Valentin, with The Charter of the Court of Love.  The court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. Judges were selected by women on the basis of a poetry reading.  It was probably based on the poems of Grandson, and not on the poems of Chaucer.   It is possible that the actual Court never existed and that it was all an invention of the princess.

Valentine’s Day is even mentioned ruefully by Ophelia in Hamlet (1600–1601):

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.

—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5

Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories. Fancy Valentines were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid-19th century.  The reinvention of St. Valentine’s Day in the 1840s has been traced by Leigh Eric Schmidt.   As a writer observed in 1849, “Saint Valentine’s Day… is becoming, nay it has become, a national holyday.”

In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Elizabeth Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts.    Howland took her inspiration from an English Valentine she had received.  Intrigued with the idea of making similar Valentines, Howland began her business by importing paper lace and floral decorations from England.

Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.  In the UK, just under half of the population spends money on their Valentines and around 1.3 billion pounds are spent yearly on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts, with an estimated 25 million cards being sent.  The mid-19th century Valentine’s Day trade was a harbinger of further commercialized holidays in the United States to follow.

In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts. Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped box. In the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine’s Day as an occasion for giving jewelry.

In the modern era, liturgically, the Anglican Church has a service for St. Valentine’s Day (the Feast of St. Valentine), which includes the optional rite of the renewal of marriage vows.  Valentine’s Day customs developed in early modern England and spread throughout the Anglosphere in the 19th century.

In the later 20th and early 21st centuries, these customs have also spread to other countries along with other aspects of American pop culture,  but its impact so far has been rather more limited than that of Halloween, or that of US pop-culture inspired aspects of Christmas.

Kathy Kiefer