Though Valentine’s Day may be celebrated in different parts of the world, it does not mean that everyone celebrates it the same way. While most Americans would perceive it as a holiday created by the greeting card industry, Valentine’s Day had origins before Hallmark got ahold of it.
To begin with, there are a few popular theories about the origin of Valentine’s Day.
According to classics professor Noel Lenski at the University at Colorado, Boulder, the first is that the day derived from Lupercalia, a raunchy Roman festival on February 15 where men stripped naked and spanked young maidens with goat or dog skin whips in hopes of improving their fertility.
Lenski said that later on in third century Roman A.D., Roman Emperor Claudius II attempted bolster his army by forbidding young men from marrying because he believed that single men made for better soldiers. Catholic Saint Valentine was rumored to have led the charge on allowing these young loves to get married. He was executed soon after.
Valentine’s Day icon Cupid was the son of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Ancient Roman prose writer Apeleius wrote a myth in the Latin Novel Metamorphoses saying that while carrying nectar to the gods on Mt. Olympus, Cupid spilled a liquid, and roses grew in profusion on that spot.
Much has changed in modern times.
Annually, 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sold. In 1913, Hallmark produced their first Valentine card. Today, Hallmark offers over 1,330 different Valentine cards to give to loved ones.
Although it may commonly be assumed that Valentine’s Day is the most popular holiday for greeting cards, it actually is not. According to the Greeting Card Association, it is the second most popular greeting card-giving occasion, after Christmas.
The National Confectioners Association found that in 2009, eight billion candy hearts were made in the U.S. It is commonly a tradition in the U.S. to gift chocolates, flowers, and greeting cards on this day.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in other cultures, but in many cases, the customs are quite different than what westerners are used to.
In Japan on February 14th, women buy Hom-mei, a chocolate strictly for boyfriends and husbands. Unfortunately, women have to wait the whole month to receive their gift, which is usually white chocolate.
In India, celebrating Valentine’s Day is a recent tradition. Festivals are week-long and the day is promoted on television, newspapers and more.
Scotland has an unconventional way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. They celebrate the day with a complete stranger. A popular tradition in Scottish culture is “The Search of the Valentine Date.” The first man or woman a person sees on the street becomes his or her Valentine.
Valentine’s Day in China is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month on the Chinese calendar. Couples visit a temple called "Temple of Matchmaker" and pray for happiness and future marriage. Those who are single also participate in the tradition by praying for luck in finding love.
Whether you’re single or not this year, try something new by practicing some of these traditions or make someone your Valentine by impressing them with these facts and theories.