Valentine’s Day originated as a religious celebration in commemoration of St. Valentine, who secretly married couples during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius. The Emperor banned marriage within his army, to keep his men focused. Upon discovering what St Valentine had been up to, he imprisoned him, and ordered his beheading.
Legend has it that while in prison, St Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s blind daughter, and this great love helped her regain her sight. Before his execution, he wrote a her a letter, signing off with “From your Valentine”, which is still used on this day that celebrates lovers.
Traditionally, Roman men sent love letters on Valentine’s Day, expressing their affection and desire to the women who stirred their heart. However, in different countries, Valentine’s day has different meanings, origins and traditions.
The Chinese version of Valentine’s day is the Qixi festival, which is based on the romance between Niulang (a cow herder), and Zhinu (the Emperor’s grand daughter), China’s very own Romeo and Juliet. They are literally star crossed lovers, as the Emperor turned this mismatched couple into stars, allowing them to meet only once a year. If you look up at the night sky, you can spot the stars Vega (Zhinu) and Altair (Niulang), which find themselves closest to each other on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Couples celebrate this time of year by watching the stars’ bittersweet rendezvous, and go to the temple to pray for prosperity.
In Argentina, lovers exchange candy for kisses during Sweetness week, between 13th-20th of February. This playful week is topped off with a friendship day on the final day, so that singles can also have fun during this celebration of love.
Chocolate is everything when it comes to Valentine’s day in Japan. On this day, women spoil their men with different types of chocolate, ranging from Honmei-choco (true feeling chocolate), giri-choco (obligatory chocolate) and cho-giri (ultra-obligatory chocolate), to show the extent of their love. The men who receive the honmei-choco, and share the same feelings, will return their affection on White Day (14th March), with gifts worth 2-3 times the chocolates they initially received.
Koreans share the same Japanese tradition with the addition of Black Day, a day for singles, on the 14th of April. Those flying solo spend the day with their friends, dressed in black to celebrate their singlehood while feasting on Jajangmyeon, Korean black bean sauce noodles. Koreans are so in love with love that they celebrate romance on the 14th day of each month, including May’s Rose Day, and Hug Day in December.
France, home to the city of love and passionate affairs of the heart, had an interesting way celebrating Valentine’s Day. Centuries ago, they held a loterie d’amour (love lottery), where single women and men gathered in houses facing each other, and shouted the name of their love interest out the windows.
Often the men would leave with another woman if they didn’t find their admirer in their league. In protest, the unmatched women would gather for a bonfire, and burn the image of the offending man, while hurling abuse. Luckily, for us romantics, this seemingly anti-Valentines Day tradition has been banned by the French government.
Love truly is a universal language, and there are many more ways different cultures celebrate it. What does Valentine’s Day mean to you? Is it stargazing with your lover after a romantic candlelit meal? Or is it bonding with your family for a board game night? Perhaps it’s about celebrating self love, giving yourself the day off to indulge in activities that make your spirit sing. No matter what you do this Valentine’s day, remember, you are loved.
Signing off with a quote for you crazy romantics:
“Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties.” – Jules Renard
BioMed-Chemist, Formulator, Fitness Freak & Full-time free spirit
Dedicated to helping people find their best self through nutrition and positive vibes.