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Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is a time when people show feelings of love, affection and friendship. It is celebrated in many ways worldwide and falls on February 14 each year.

Many people see Valentine's Day as a special day to express one's love for another.

©iStockphoto.com/mammamaart

What do people do?

Many people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing appreciation for the people they love or adore. Some people take their loved ones for a romantic dinner at a restaurant while others may choose this day to propose or get married. Many people give greeting cards, chocolates, jewelry or flowers, particularly roses, to their partners or admirers on Valentine’s Day.

It is also a time to appreciate friends in some social circles and cultures. For example, Valentine's Day in Finland refers to “Friend's day”, which is more about remembering all friends rather than focusing solely on romance. Valentine's Day in Guatemala is known as Day of Love and Friendship). It is similar to Valentine’s Day customs and traditions countries such as the United States but it is also a time for many to show their appreciation for their friends.

Public life

Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday in many countries, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. However, restaurants, hotels and shopping centers may be busy around this time of the year.

Background

The origins of Valentine's Day are not clear but many sources believe that it stems from the story of St Valentine, a Roman priest who was martyred on or around February 14 in the year 270 CE. How he became the patron saint of lovers remains a mystery but one theory is that the church used the day of St Valentine’s martyrdom to Christianize the old Roman Lupercalia, a pagan festival held around the middle of February.

The ancient ceremony included putting girls’ names in a box and letting the boys draw them out. Couples would then be paired off until the following year. The Christian church substituted saints’ names for girls’ names in hope that the participant would model his life after the saint whose name he drew. However, it was once again girls’ names that ended up in the box by the 16th century.

 Eventually the custom of sending anonymous cards or messages to those whom one admired became the accepted way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. There was an increase in interest in Valentine's Day, first in the United States and then in Canada, in the mid-19th century. Early versions of Valentine cards fashioned of satin and lace and ornamented with flowers, ribbons, and images of cupids or birds appeared in England in the 1880s.

Symbols

Hearts, the colors red and pink, roses, images and statues of cupids, and cupids’ bows and arrows symbolize the feeling of romance and love on Valentine’s Day. Cupid is usually portrayed as a small winged figure with a bow and arrow. In mythology, he uses his arrow to strike the hearts of people. People who fall in love are sometimes said to be “struck by Cupid's arrow”. The day focuses on love, romance, appreciation and friendship.

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