Valentine's Day or Saint Valentine's Day is a holiday celebrated on February 14. In the Americas and Europe, it is the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other by sending Valentine's cards, presenting flowers, or offering confectionery. The holiday is named after two among the numerous Early Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

The day is most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of "valentines." Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid.

This is a time to share from the heart with Valentine's Day Gifts.

In Roman mythology, Cupid (Latin cupido) is the god of erotic love and beauty. He is equated with the Greek god Eros, and another one of his Latin names is Amor (cognate with Kama). In popular culture Cupid is frequently shown shooting his bow to inspire romantic love, often as an icon of Valentine's Day.

Given that Cupid is a personification of love, and in particular sexual love, the ancients faced a difficult dilemma when they had to account for his parentage. If sexual love did not exist yet, by what process could they give birth to the god of love?

Accordingly, there are many different stories about Cupid's parentage. Cicero provides three different lineages: son of Mercury (Hermes) and Diana (Artemis), son of Mercury and Venus (Aphrodite), and son of Mars (Ares in Greek mythology) and Venus. It seems that Cupid did not gain parents until later Greek antiquity. According to Hesiod's Theogony, the most ancient Greek theography, Eros - the Greek equivalent of Cupid - was created coevally with Chaos and the earth.

Throughout ancient mythological writing, there appear to be either two Cupids or two sides to the figure of Cupid. One is the son of Jupiter (Zeus) and Venus. He is a lively youth who delights in pranks and spreading love. The other is a son of Nyx and Erebus, known for riotous debauchery.

Cupid's cult was closely associated with that of Venus, with Cupid being worshipped as devotedly as she. Additionally, Cupid's power was supposed to be even greater than his mother's, since he had dominion over the dead in Hades, the creatures of the sea and the gods in Olympus. Some of the cults of Cupid suggested that Cupid as son of Night and Hell mated with Chaos to produce both men and gods, making the gods the offspring of love.

In painting and sculpture, Cupid is often portrayed as a nude (or sometimes diapered) winged boy or baby armed with a bow and a quiver of arrows.

The Hindu Kama also has a very similar description. On gems and other surviving pieces, he is usually shown amusing himself with childhood play, sometimes driving a hoop, throwing darts, catching a butterfly, or flirting with a nymph. He is often depicted with his mother (in graphic arts, this is nearly always Venus), playing a horn. He is also shown wearing a helmet and carrying a buckler, perhaps in reference to Virgil's Omnia vincit amor or as political satire on wars for love or love as war.

Cupid figures prominently in ariel poetry, lyrics and, of course, elegiac love and metamorphic poetry. In epic poetry, he is less often invoked, but he does appear in Virgil's Aeneid changed into the shape of Ascanius inspiring Dido's love. In later literature, Cupid is frequently invoked as fickle, playful, and perverse. He is often depicted as carrying two sets of arrows: one set gold-headed, which inspire love; and the other lead-headed, which inspire hatred.

The best-known story involving Cupid is the tale of Cupid and Psyche.

Cupid is a holiday character and symbol usually representing Valentines Day and the emotion of love. Cupid is based on the god of Roman mythology of the same name but has undergone many changes. Cupid is the Roman version of the Greek deity Eros.

The most common representations of Cupid include a baby with wings and a bow and arrow. Sometimes the arrow has a heart for its tip. Cupid is most often seen nude or diapered. Cupid is sometimes blindfolded, symbolizing the figure of speech "love is blind."

Reinterpretation of the Cupid character may leave off any or all of the traditional details of the character, so long as the character's main purpose is to make or help people fall in love (or possibly become physically intimate).

Humorous interpretations may feature an obviously grown man but keeping the other traditional elements including the diaper. It is said that if Cupid's arrow hits you, you will fall hopelessly and madly in love with the next person you meet.

Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards. The sending of Valentines was a fashion in nineteenth-century Great Britain, and, in 1847, Esther Howland developed a successful business in her Worcester, Massachusetts home with hand-made Valentine cards based on British models. The popularity of Valentine cards in 19th-century America was a harbinger of the future commercialization of holidays in the United States.

The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.




Saint Valentine

Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. Until 1969, the Catholic Church formally recognized eleven Valentine's Days. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae).

Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who suffered martyrdom about AD 269 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. His relics are at the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome and at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.

Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been killed during the persecution of 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 (Basilica di San Valentino).

The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of 14 February. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him. Some sources say the Valentine linked to romance is Valentine of Rome, others say Valentine of Terni. Some scholars (such as the Bollandists) have concluded that the two were originally the same person.

No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the fourteenth century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.

In 1836, relics of St. Valentine of Rome were donated by Pope Gregory XVI to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland. In the 1960s, the church was renovated and relics restored to prominence.

In the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feastday of Saint Valentine on 14 February 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 14 February." The feast day is still celebrated in Balzan and 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-Vatican II calendar.

The Early Medieval acta of either Saint Valentine were excerpted by Bede and briefly expounded in Legenda Aurea. According to that version, St 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 the blind daughter of his jailer.

Legenda Aurea still providing no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. In an embellishment to The Golden Legend, on the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first "valentine" himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his beloved, as the jailer's daughter whom he had befriended and healed, or both. It was a note that read "From your Valentine."

In another apparently modern embellishment, while Valentine was imprisoned, people would leave him little notes, folded up and hidden in cracks in the rocks around his cell. He would find them and offer prayers for them.




Attested Traditions

Greek and Roman Fertility Festivals

Though popular modern sources link unspecified Greco-Roman February holidays alleged to be devoted to fertility and love to St Valentine's Day, Professor Jack Oruch of the University of Kansas argued that prior to Chaucer, no links between the Saints named Valentinus and romantic love existed. Thus, it is immaterial to the history of Valentine's Day whether or not 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, February 15 was Lupercalia, an archaic rite connected to fertility, without overtones of romance. 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.

Medieval Period and the English Renaissance

Using the language of the law courts for the rituals of courtly love, a "High Court of Love" was established in Paris on Valentine's Day in 1400. The court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. Judges were selected by women on the basis of a poetry reading. The earliest surviving valentine is a fifteenth-century rondeau written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his "valentined" wife:




Modern Times

The reinvention of Saint Valentine's Day in the 1840s has been traced by Leigh Eric Schmidt. As a writer in Graham's American Monthly 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 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, so clearly the practice of sending Valentine's cards had existed in England before it became popular in North America.

The English practice of sending Valentine's cards appears in Elizabeth Gaskell's Mr. Harrison's Confessions (published 1851). Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary." The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards. The mid-nineteenth century Valentine's Day trade was a harbinger of further commercialized holidays in the United States to follow.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts in the United States, usually from a man to a woman. Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates packed in a red stain, heart-shaped box.

In the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as an occasion for giving jewelry. Later on in the 2000s, the rise of the internet meant the rise of digital communication with Valentines Day messages.

The day has come to be associated with a generic platonic greeting of "Happy Valentine's Day." As a joke, Valentine's Day is also referred to as "Singles Awareness Day." In some North American elementary schools, children decorate classrooms, exchange cards, and eat sweets. The greeting cards of these students often mention what they appreciate about each other.




Similar Days Honoring Love

In the West

Europe

Valentine's Day has regional traditions in the UK. 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 Wales, many people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen's Day) on 25 January instead of or as well as St Valentine's Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers. 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.

In Denmark and Norway, Valentine's Day (14 Feb) is known as Valentinsdag. It is not celebrated to a large extent, but a lot 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.

In Sweden it is called Alla hjartans dag ("All Hearts' Day") and was launched in the 1960s by the flower industry's commercial interests, and due to 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 bested by those for Mother's Day.

In Finland Valentine's Day is called YstavanpŠivŠ which translates into "Friend's day". As the name says, this day is more about remembering all your friends, not only your loved ones.

The same goes for Estonia, where Valentine's Day is called Sobrapaev.

In Slovenia, a proverb says that "St Valentine brings the keys of roots," so on February 14, plants and flowers start to grow. Valentine's Day has been celebrated as the day when the first works in the vineyards and on the fields commence. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day. Nevertheless, it has only recently been celebrated as the day of love. The day of love is traditionally 12 March, the Saint Gregory's day. Another proverb says "Valentin - prvi spomladin" ("Valentine - first saint of spring"), as in some places (especially White Carniola) Saint Valentine marks the beginning of spring.

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 Baba 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 many groups, reputable persons and institutions but also nationalist organizations like Noua Dreapta, who condemn Valentine's Day for being superficial, commercialist and imported Western kitsch.

Valentine's Day is called Sevgililer Gunu in Turkey, which translates into "Sweethearts' Day". According to Jewish tradition the 15th day of the month of Av - Tu B'Av (usually late August) is the festival of love. In ancient times girls would wear white dresses and dance in the vineyards, where the boys would be waiting for them (Mishna Taanith end of Chapter 4). In modern Israeli culture this is a popular day to pronounce love, propose marriage and give gifts like cards or flowers.




Central and South America

In Guatemala, Valentine's Day is known as "D’a del Amor y la Amistad" (Day of Love and Friendship). Although it is similar to the United States' version in many ways, it is also common to see people do "acts of appreciation" for their friends.

In Brazil, the Dia dos Namorados (lit. "Day of the Enamored", or "Boyfriends'/Girlfriends' Day") is celebrated on June 12, when couples exchange gifts, chocolates, cards and flower bouquets. This day was chosen probably because it is the day before the Festa junina's 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. The February 14's Valentine's Day is not celebrated at all, mainly for cultural and commercial reasons, since it usually falls too little before or after Carnival, a major floating holiday in Brazil - long regarded as a holiday of sex and debauchery by many in the country - that can fall anywhere from early February to early March.

In most of South America the D’a del amor y la amistad (lit. "Love and Friendship Day") and the Amigo secreto ("Secret friend") are quite popular and usually celebrated together on the 14 of February (one exception is Colombia, where it is celebrated on the third Friday and Saturday in September, because of commercial issues). 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).




Asia

Thanks to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine's Day is celebrated in some Asian countries with Singaporeans, Chinese and South Koreans spending the most money on Valentine's gifts.

In Japan, it has become an obligation for many women to give chocolates to all male co-workers. This is known as giri-choko , from the words giri ("obligation") and choko, ("chocolate"). This contrasts with honmei-choko; chocolate given to a loved one. Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as tomo-choko; from tomo meaning "friend". By a further marketing effort, a reciprocal day called White Day has emerged. On March 14, men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine's Day. Originally, the return gift was supposed to be white chocolate or marshmallows; hence "White Day". However, lingerie and jewelry have become common gifts.

In South Korea, there is Pepero Day, celebrated on November 11, when young couples give each other romantic gifts, in particular a long, chocolate cookie named Pepero, thus Pepero Day. The date '11/11' is intended to resemble the long shape of the cookie. There is an additional day for single people, Black Day, celebrated on April 14.

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 (simplified Chinese: pinyin: qing ren jie).

Similar Asian Traditions

In Chinese culture, there is an older observance related to lovers. It is called "The Night of Sevens". According to the legend, the Cowherd star and the Weaver Maid star are normally separated by the milky way (river) but are allowed to meet by crossing it on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar.

An observance on the same day in Korea is called Chilseok, but its association with romance has long faded. In Japan, a slightly different version called Tanabata, which is said to mean a weaver for a god) is celebrated, on July 7th on the Gregorian calendar. However, it is never regarded that the celebration is even remotely related with the St. Valentine's Day or lovers giving gifts to each other.




The Middle East

In Iranian culture, Sepandarmazgan is a day for love, which is on 29 Bahman in the Jalali solar calendar of Iran. The corresponding date in the Gregorian calendar is 17 February. However, Valentine's day is currently celebrated semi-secretly in Iran despite some restrictions made by government; young Iranian boys and girls may be seen on this day going out and buying gifts and celebrating.

In Saudi Arabia in 2008, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine's Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, as the day is considered an un-Islamic holiday. This ban created a black market of roses and wrapping paper.




In the News ...


6 Very Strange Valentine's Day Gifts   Live Science

Allergic to Love? How Kissing Can Pose Risks for Some   Live Science

When Cold, We Want Romance   Live Science

What Falling in Love Does to the Brain   Live Science

The Romantic Evolution of True Love   Live Science

The Most Tragic Love Stories in History   Live Science

Secret and Sordid Sex Lives of Scientists - Einstein, more   Discovery

Valentine's Day Rx: Four Future Love Drugs   National Geographic

Valentine's Day: Why Do We Celebrate It?   National Geographic

Ancient Kissing Wasn't Just for Valentines   National Geographic

Valentine's Day Facts: Gifts, History, and Love Science   National Geographic

Couples in the same place emotionally stay together   PhysOrg


Elephant Love Calls and Triangles
Science Daily

Wildlife Salute Valentines Day Of Their Own Science Daily

Discovering the Secrets of Long-Term Love   Scientific American

Love, Explained: The Science of Romance   Scientific American





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