Everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day, but how many know the origin of this holiday? February 14th is the day when we celebrate love and is the celebration of lovers par excellence, now for years consolidated among the festivities belonging to Italian traditions.
But where does this custom originate from?
It seems that the origin of Valentine’s Day coincides with the attempt by the Catholic Church to attribute a Christian meaning to the pagan rite of fertility. In fact, for the ancient Romans, the month of February was the best time to think about new births. In fact, it was at the beginning of this month that the names of some couples of men and women were chosen, who would have to live in intimacy for at least a year, so that the fertility rite was concluded.
But when the Christian religion began to prevail over pagan rites, the forerunner fathers of the Church wanted to put an end to this practice, considered licentious, and replace Lupercus with a patron saint of lovers.
Thus in 496 A.C. thanks to Pope Gelasio the cult of Saint Valentine began.
Who was Saint Valentine and why was he chosen as a symbol of lovers?
Saint Valentine was a Roman bishop, martyred because he dedicated his entire life to the Christian community and to the city of Terni, where persecutions were raging against the followers of Jesus. Legend has it that he was the first man of faith to consecrate the union between a legionnaire pagan and a young Christian and, therefore, for this reason was considered the patron saint of lovers.
Saint Valentine has always had issues between lovers at heart. In fact, according to the legend, it is said that one day, hearing a young couple arguing, he went to meet them, gave them a rose and prayed to God that their union would remain firm. His prayers were able to strengthen the union of the engaged couple, so much so that some time later the two asked him for the blessing of their marriage.
Once this story spread, many young couples decided to go on pilgrimage to the Saint, every 14th of the month, to have the blessing until St. Valentine’s death, which took place on February 14th.
Valentine’s Day in the world
Valentine’s Day is one of the few holidays that is celebrated on the same day all over the world, but is it the celebrated in the same way? Let’s see what the differences are compared to Italy.
In the Netherlands and in England, February 14th is considered the best time to declare your love. The celebration, in fact, consists of sending notes, sometimes even anonymously, in which love is confessed to someone.
In the East and especially in Japan, tradition has it that the girls give a box of chocolates to the boys. The curious element of this tradition, however, is that they don’t necessarily have to be their boyfriends: friends and work colleagues are fine too.
If the Japanese men have appreciated the gesture, then a month after Valentine’s Day, and therefore March 14, they will have to reciprocate by giving the girl a white chocolate.
In Spain, instead of chocolate red roses are given and in the United States the festival is celebrated not only by adults in love, but also by children who exchange cards depicting cartoon heroes.