Valentine’s Day is recognized around the world as a celebration of love that takes place each year on Feb. 14, but its origins are somewhat mysterious. While Saint Valentine is known to be a patron saint of Christian and Roman tradition, the Catholic Church actually recognizes three different saints named Valentine, or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred and come with their own legend. But whether Valentine was opposing Emperor Claudius II’s outlaw of marriage and marrying lovers in secret or was killed for trying to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, his origins are based in acts of love.
There are numerous ways to celebrate Valentine's Day, and each country has their own traditions.
Valentine’s Day Cards - France
Making and sending Valentine’s Day cards is one of the most common ways of celebrating this holiday. While this tradition is now practiced in most countries that celebrate Valentine’s Day,
the first Valentine’s Day card originated in Europe when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415.
Today, people all over the world take to making red and pink, and often heart-shaped letters for their lovers and loved ones on Valentine's Day.
Chocolates and Romantic Dinners - Italy
An old Italian tradition used to have young, unmarried girls wake up before dawn on Valentine’s Day in an attempt to spot their future husbands. It was believed that the first man a woman saw on that day was the man she would marry within that year (or that her future husband would closely resemble this man).
Today, Italians celebrate a little differently. Gift exchanges and romantic dinners are the typical way of celebrating this holiday, and one of the most popular gifts is Baci Perugina, a box of small, chocolate-covered hazelnuts wrapped in romantic quotes.
But Italians aren’t the only ones that celebrate with chocolate. Buying (or making) a box of delicious treats and sending them to your sweetheart is a well-practiced tradition around the world.
Mass Wedding Ceremonies - Philippines
While Valentine’s Day celebrations in the Philippines resemble many of those in Western countries (including card making and chocolate giving), another way of commemorating the special day has gained popularity. Mass wedding ceremonies have become a common occurrence on Valentine’s Day. In a true celebration of love, hundreds of couples will gather in public areas to get married or renew their vows together.
Love and Friendship - Mexico
While many countries reserve Valentine’s Day for lovers, Mexico, as well as other parts of Latin America, celebrate Dia del Amor y la Amistad, or Day of Love and Friendship. While the traditions remain similar, the celebration includes non-romantic forms of love as well. Schoolchildren will often come home on Valentine’s Day with several cards from their friends.
By Jana Rolland