Saint Valentine's Day or Valentine's Day is a
saints day commemorating Saint Valentine on February 14. It is
the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each
other; sending Valentine's cards, donating to charity or gifting
It is very common to present flowers on Valentine's Day.
The holiday is named after two men, both Christian martyrs among
the numerous Early Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day
became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey
Chaucer in High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love
Tree decorated for Valentine's Day in San Diego, California
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 and the figure of the
winged Cupid. 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. 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.
Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. Until
1969, the Catholic Church formally recognized eleven Valentine's
Days. The Valentines honoured on February 14 are:
- Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae): 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 (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m.
Romae): He 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 have
concluded that the two were originally the same person. In any
case, no romantic elements are present in the original Early
Medieval biographies of either of these martyrs.
An overview of attested traditions relevant to the holiday is
presented below, with the legends about Valentine himself
discussed in the end.
February fertility festivals
Though popular modern sources link unspecified Graeco-Roman
February holidays alleged to be devoted to fertility and love to
St Valentine's Day, Jack Oruch has demonstrated
that prior to Chaucer, no links between the Saints named
Valentinus and romantic love existed. Thus whether or not in the
ancient Athenian calendar, the period between mid-January and
mid-February was the month of Gamelion, was dedicated to the
sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera is immaterial.
In Ancient Rome, February 15 was Lupercalia, an archaic rite
connected to fertility, without overtones of romance. Plutarch
Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently
celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with
the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths
and of the magistrates run up and down through the city
naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with
shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in
their way, and like children at school present their hands
to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be
helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
The word Lupercalia comes from lupus, or wolf, so the holiday
may be connected with the legendary wolf that suckled Romulus
and Remus. Priests of this cult, luperci would travel to the
lupercal, the cave where the she-wolf who reared Romulus and
Remus allegedly lived, and sacrifice animals (two goats and a
dog). The blood would then be scattered in the streets, to bring
fertility and keep the wolves away from the fields. 
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.
Valentine's Day Sweets
Chaucer's love birds
The first recorded association of Valentine's Day with
romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382) by
- For this was on seynt Volantynys day
- Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese
[choose] his make [mate].
This poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the
engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia.
A treaty providing for a marriage was signed on May 2, 1381.
(When they were married eight months later, he was 13 or 14. She
On the liturgical calendar, May 2 is the saints' day for
Valentine of Genoa. This St. Valentine was an early bishop of
Genoa who died around AD 307. Readers incorrectly
assumed that Chaucer was referring to February 14 as Valentine's
Day. However, mid-February is an unlikely time for birds to be
mating in England.
Chaucer's Parliament of Foules is generally set in a
supposed context of an old tradition, but in fact there was no
such tradition before Chaucer. The speculative explanation of
sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their
origins among eighteenth-century antiquaries, notably Alban
Butler, the author of Butler's Lives of Saints, and have
been perpetuated even by respectable modern scholars. Most
notably, "the idea that Valentin'e Day customed perpetuated
those of the Roman Lupercalia has been accepted uncritically and
repeated, in various forms, up to the present"
Medieval and modern times
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, which commences.
Je suis desja d'amour tanné
Ma tres doulce Valentinée… (Charles d'Orléans, Rondeau
VI, lines 1–2)
At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London
following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415.
Valentine's Day is mentioned ruefully by Ophelia in Hamlet
(1600-01): "Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's Day."
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 American culture,Saint
Valentine's Day was remade in the 1840s; as a writer in
GFTraham's American Monthly observed in 1849, "Saint
Valentine's Day... is becoming, nay it has become, a national
In the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of
Saints, the feast day 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 reinvention of Saint Valentine's Day in the 1840s has
been traced by Leigh Eric Schmidt.
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, and she took
her inspiration from an English valentine she had received.
Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an
annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary."
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. In the 1980s, the
diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as an occasion
for giving jewellery.
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, students are asked
to give a Valentine card or small gift to everyone in the class.
The greeting cards of these students often mention what they
appreciate about each other.
The evolving legend
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.
Valentine's Day and its
equivalents in other cultures
Valentine's Day also 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 leaving treats, many children were scared of this
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 & 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 hjärtans 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 Ystävänpäivä
which translates into "Friend's day". As the name says, this day
is more about remembering your friends than your loved ones.
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 Dreaptǎ, who
condemn Valentine's Day for being superficial, commercialist and
imported Western kitsch.
In Turkey, Valentine's Day is called Sevgililer Günü
which translates into "Sweet Hearts 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.
In Brazil, the Dia dos Namorados (lit. "Day of the
enamored", or "Boyfriend's/Girlfriend's 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 Saint Anthony's day, known there as the
marriage saint, when many single women perform popular
rituals, called simpatias, in order to find a good
husband or a boyfriend.
In Colombia, the Día del amor y la amistad (lit. "Love
and Friendship Day") is celebrated on the third Friday and
Saturday in September, because of commercial issues. In this
country the Amigo secreto ("Secret friend") tradition is
quite popular, which 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).
Thanks to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine's Day
has emerged in Japan and Korea as a day on which women, and less
commonly men, give candy, chocolate or flowers. It has become an
obligation for many women to give chocolates to all male
co-workers. In Japan this is known as giri-choko (義理チョコ),
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 (友チョコ); 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
jewellery have become common gifts.
In South Korea, there is also Pepero Day, celebrated on
November 11, when young couples give each other romantic gifts.
There is an additional day for single people, Black Day,
celebrated on April 14.
In Chinese culture, there is a counterpart to Valentine's
Day, called "The Night of Sevens" (七夕); according to legend the
Cowherd and the Weaver Maid meet in Heaven on the 7th day of the
7th month of the lunar calendar. A slightly different version of
this day is celebrated in Japan as Tanabata, on July 7th of the
In Persian culture (Iran) Sepandarmazgan is a day for love,
which is on 29 Bahman in the jalali solar calendar. The
corresponding date in the Gregorian calendar is 17 February.
Sepandarmazgan were held in the Great Persian Empire in the 20th
This day is also celebrated semi secretly in Iran, and young
Persian boys and girls are spottable on this day going out and
buying gifts and celebrating. It is celebrated secretly because
of the current religious oppression imposed by the government on
the society, forbidding unmarried men and women to go out
together. Iran is one of the top 3 youth countries in the world
with many unmarried youth. Despite harassments by the religious
police in the street, the youth still celebrate in the name of
the Valentine's day.