In the third century in Rome, Emperor Claudius had banned marriages among young people in the hope that he would get more and braver soldiers. A priest called Valentine did not agree with the prohibition, so he decided to marry the couples in secret. When discovered, Valentine was imprisoned and eventually executed in 270.
It is believed that, while he was imprisoned, Valentine fell in love with Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer, who miraculously regained her sight. Upon his death, the priest would leave her a farewell letter with the signature: "from your Valentine." This letter kickstarted what has now become a long-lasting tradition.
Valentine's Day Around the World
Valentine's Day is celebrated virtually all over the world, but everybody does it differently. In Croatia, for instance, love is often shown with a heart-shaped cake, usually made of gingerbread and honey.
In Japan it is women who give chocolate to men; not only to their partners, but also to family, friends and co-workers. A month later, on March 15th, men give women sweets and flowers.
German couples give each other little pigs on Valentine's Day - yes, you read that right: little pigs, offering flowers or laying down on chocolate hearts. It is also common to give each other big ginger cookies, made in the shape of a heart, with a few words written on them.
In Taiwan they give roses on 14th February, but how many? The quantity is very important. For example, giving a single rose means love; eleven roses signify being someone’s favourite; ninety-nine roses say that your love is forever and one hundred and eight roses… that would be a marriage proposal.
Many people choose Valentine's Day to get married
. So many that in the Philippines in recent years a new tradition has emerged: mass weddings on 14th February. Best known worldwide are the weddings in the Empire State Building in New York; every Valentine’s Day 10 couples are granted the opportunity to get married on the 86th floor of the famous building.
In Finland they celebrate Valentine's Day but they do it in a different way, since they celebrate Friendship Day (Ystävänpäivä). Friends, family, colleagues and partners, they all exchange cards, flowers and chocolates on this day.
The Welsh cannot wait and bring the celebration of love forward to 25th January, a day known as ‘Dwynwen’. They give their loved ones flowers, chocolates and… spoons – known as lovespoons, usually made of wood. This tradition dates back to the XVII century.
And you? How do you celebrate Valentine's Day?