Love. It’s the only human emotion that has an entire holiday of its own! And for those who scoff that Valentine’s Day is a phony holiday conceived by greeting card companies and chocolatiers, consider this: the history of Valentine’s Day spans centuries. And the holiday is celebrated around the world.
Valentine’s Day has its roots in a bawdy Roman tradition called Lupercalia. Every February 15, young men stripped naked and gallivanted though the neighborhood, playfully whacking young maidens’ buttocks in order to improve the women’s fertility.
Eventually Lupercalia was absorbed into Christian tradition, evolving into a celebration of Saint Valentine. This rebellious priest was accused of performing illegal marriages under the Emperor Claudius II. Valentine was executed for his crimes on February 14 and promptly became the icon of sweethearts everywhere.
Romantic couples are not the only ones who feel the love on Valentine’s Day. Every year, Americans spend roughly 18 billion dollars on candy, cards, chocolates, flowers and jewelry to express affection on this holiday. By the way, America’s most popular Valentine’s Day candy isn’t chocolate – it’s those tiny little hearts with messages like “Be Mine,” “Kiss Me,” and “Oh You Kid.” Enough of those candy hearts are produced each year that everyone in the world could have one!
Speaking of the world, here are some sweet Valentine’s Day traditions from other lands.
South Korea and Japan
In these countries women shower their male partners, family members, and coworkers with chocolates to express affection. Ladies get their turn on March 14 when men give cake, candy, and flowers on White Day.
Like Americans, UK couples go all out on Valentine’s Day. They exchange gifts of flowers, chocolates, and jewelry, enjoy a nice dinner on the town, or opt for a romantic candle-lit meal at home.
Are you single? Head to Finland on February 14! The Finnish holiday is known as Friends Day, and everyone gets in on the action. Pink roses are the traditional gift among friends, but cards and candy are popular as well.
Valentine’s Day falls during the annual Carnaval celebrations, when most Peruvians are on vacation. Many sweethearts exchange orchids, which are native to the country. Large, communal wedding ceremonies are popular, with vast numbers of couples tying the knot on February 14.
Brazilians give St. Valentine the cold shoulder. Their patron saint of romance is Saint Anthony, and lovestruck Brazilians display their devotion to one another on his feast day, June 12.