There are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine’s Day. Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it „From Your Valentine“. Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honour St. Valentine.
Gradually, February 14 became the date for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. The date was marked by sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers. There was often a social gathering or a ball.
In the United States, Miss Esther Howland is given credit for sending the first valentine cards. Commercial valentines were introduced in the 1800’s and now the date is very commercialised. The town of Loveland, Colorado, does a large post office business around February 14. The spirit of good continues as valentines are sent out with sentimental verses and children exchange valentine cards at school. (Source: http://www.pictureframes.co.uk/Saint-Valentine.aspx)
Valentine’s Day Traditions
While sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts is traditional in the UK, Valentine’s Day has various regional customs. In Norfolk, a character called ‚Jack‘ Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children. Although he was leaving treats, many children were scared of this mystical person. In Wales, many people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day) on January 25 instead of or as well as St Valentine’s Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers.
In Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä which translates into „Friend’s day“. As the name indicates, this day is more about remembering all your friends, not only your loved ones.
Valentine’s Day is called Sevgililer Günü in Turkey, which translates into „Sweethearts‘ Day“.
In South Korea, women give chocolate to men on February 14, and men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14 (White Day). On April 14 (Black Day), those who did not receive anything on the 14th of Feb or March go to a Chinese restaurant to eat black noodles (자장면 jajangmyeon) and „mourn“ their single life.
In Brazil, the Dia dos Namorados (lit. „Day of the Enamored“, or „Boyfriends’/Girlfriends‘ 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 Festa junina’s Saint Anthony’s day, known there as the marriage saint, when traditionally many single women perform popular rituals, called simpatias, in order to find a good husband or boyfriend. The February 14’s Valentine’s Day is not celebrated at all, mainly for cultural and commercial reasons, since it usually falls too little before or after Carnival, a major floating holiday in Brazil — long regarded as a holiday of sex and debauchery by many in the country — that can fall anywhere from early February to early March
In Iran, the Sepandarmazgan, or Esfandegan, is an age-old traditional celebration of love, friendship and Earth. It has been progressively forgotten in favour of the Western celebration of Valentine’s Day. The Association of Iran’s Cultural and Natural Phenomena has been trying since 2006 to make Sepandarmazgan a national holiday on 17 February, in order to replace the Western holiday. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine’s_Day)