Things I have learnt about Valentine’s Day (Part 2)

For Things I have learnt about Valentine’s Day (Part 1) click the link!

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Known as El Día del Cariño, Valentine’s Day in Guatemala is a colorful, affectionate affair. Throughout Latin America, the day is as much about friendship and family as it is about love. Commonly referred to as the day of amor y amistad — love and friendship — Guatemalans exchange flowers, chocolates and cards like in the U.S., but with pals as well as with admirers. And in Guatemala City, the holiday isn’t just for youth.  In the country’s capital, it’s common for locals and tourists to dress up in feathered masks or vivid Mayan attire and partake in Old Love, a senior citizens’ parade.

Traditional German handmade gingerbread heart used as christmas

Since the end of World War II, Valentine’s Day, or Valentinstag, has grown increasingly popular in Deutschland. When the big day comes, Germans have gone beyond the western staples and added a few traditions of their own such as the heart-shaped gingerbread cookies. A well-known Valentine’s staple and tourist attraction, these gargantuan sweets are sold in markets all over Germany. They  typically come with a ribbon attached so young men can drape the desserts around the shoulders of their sweethearts.

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During the Australian gold rush period, miners who were suddenly in possession of money from the new-found wealth of the Ballarat Mines were willing to pay a princely sum for elaborate valentines and merchants in the country would ship orders amounting to thousands of pounds at a time. The most extravagent Australian valentines were made of a satin cushion, perfumed and decorated in an ornate manner with flowers and colored shells. Some might even be adorned with a taxidermied humming bird or bird of paradise. This treasure, contained within a neatly decorated box, was highly valued, being both fashionable and extremely expensive.

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The Danish valentine card is known as a “lover’s card.” Older versions of this greeting came in the form of a transparency which, when held up to the light, depicted the image of a lover handing his beloved a gift. One custom in Denmark is for people to send pressed white flowers called Snowdrops to their friends. Danish men may also send a form of valentine known as a gaekkebrev(or “joking letter”). The sender of this gaekkebrev pens a rhyme but does not sign his name. Instead, he signs the message with dots…one dot for each letter in his name. If the lady who receives the card guesses the name of the sender, then she is rewarded with an Easter Egg later in the year.

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China not only has its own New Year, but also celebrates its own Valentine’s Day. Generated from an age-old love story involving a queen’s daughter and a cowboy, the Qixi Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, usually in early August. On the Chinese Valentine’s Day, men who want to impress their partners typically book luxury dinners and shower them with roses. But it’s not a completely private affair. Cities such as  Xi’an, Fuzhou and Beijing, hold Qixi ceremonies where couples wear traditional Chinese costumes in accordance with the ancient legend. This tradition starts in the stars. Vega, a star on the east side of the Milky Way, represents the weaving girl.  Aquila on the west side, the cowboy awaiting his wife.  But for the company of an ox, the cowboy lived a sad, pitiful life alone while the weaving girl spent her days creating brilliant tapestries of clouds as the daughter of the Queen of Heaven. When the cowboy crossed paths with the weaving girl, the pair fell in love and the girl stayed on earth with the cowboy.  But the Queen wasn’t having it. The weaving girl’s mother pulled her back up into the Heavens, leaving the cowboy heartbroken and miserable. Eventually the Queen caved and let the two meet once a year on August 4.  Supposedly, the essence of Chinese Valentine’s Day is  based off of this legend, but spinoff traditions have emerged since then.  Superstition and faith drive some Chinese girls to offer fruit to deities in hopes for a good match or couples heading to temple to pray for a prosperous, healthy life together. While the Western version is beginning to take hold, it has become more common for homosexual Chinese citizens to leverage Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 and organize campaigns to rally public support for same-sex marriage.

Welsh Love Spoons

The Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine? Meet Saint Dwynwen, the patron saint of lovers. Living in the fifth century, it is said that the beautiful saint fell in love with handsome young Maelon, but her father, the King of Powys, didn’t approve and fixed her up with an arranged marriage instead. Miserable, Dwynwen prayed to have her memory erased. But the wish nearly killed her love. An angel came to Dwynwen in her sleep and froze Maelon into a block of ice. She begged God to bring him back to life in exchange for a life of service. Striking a deal, Dwynwen is said to have founded a convent off the west coast of Anglesey. Now a place of pilgrimage, visitors make the trek to a well where apparently sacred eels can forecast the outcome of relationships. Celebrated January 25, the holiday often involves love spoons, pictured above. An old tradition of courting and marriage, a Welsh man — possibly originating among sailors — would carve a love spoon for his beloved one. They would then decorate the whittled wood with different symbols: Keys would signify a man’s heart, wheels his hard work and beads, his preferred number of offspring. But Wales isn’t totally caught up in the centuries-old tradition. Many Welsh residents aren’t even familiar with Dwynwen’s tragic love story and instead opt into the Western tradition of chocolates and bouquets on February 14.

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One of the world’s most romantic destinations does Valentine’s Day right. In Verona, the land of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, couples flock to the city for Verona in Love. The city organizes a number of events, including tours that retrace the tragic lovers’ footsteps, a contest for the best love letter to Juliet or a moment with Juliet’s statue for good fortune.

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In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on two different dates…February 14 and March 14. On the first date, the female gives a gift to the male and on the second date…known as White Day and supposedly introduced by a marshmallow company in the 1960s…the male has to return the gift he received on February 14. Thus, strictly speaking, a Japanese female has the luxury of actually choosing her own gift. Chocolate is the most popular gift in Japan. However, since most Japanese females believe that store-bought chocolate is not a gift of true love, they tend to make the confection with their own hands.

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To be awoken by a kiss on Valentine’s Day is considered lucky…………… lucky you’ve got someone to awake you with a kiss on Valentine’s Day… damn i said i was not going to be bitter!

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The chief colors associated with Valentine’s Day are pink, red and white. Pink is a delicate, almost innocent shade of red and is also connected with Saint Valentine, whose burial was said to have caused the pink almond tree to blossom. Red is a symbol of warmth and feeling…the color of the heart, while white represents purity and faith…a faith between two who love each other.

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Alexander Graham Bell applied for his patent on the telephone on Valentine’s Day in 1876.

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*Warning* there is a LOT of text coming up! but if you’re interested in the history of Valentine’s Day it makes for interesting reading!

The tradition of Valentine’s Day is believed to have originated from the pagan customs of the Third Century or Fourth Century B.C., when the Parentalia and Feralia Festivals of Purification were celebrated in Ancient Rome between February 13 and February 18. This was also the time of a Fertility Festival which celebrated a young man’s rite of passage and involved animal sacrifices and fertility rituals. February 13, the opening day of the festivals, was dedicated to peace, love and household goods. February 14, the second day of Parentalia was called the Lupercalia…a day some sources believe was dedicated to Juno-Lupa, the She-Wolf. Priests known as luperci from two colleges (Quintillii and Fabii) would meet at the Cave of Lupercal in the Palatine Hill, where a she-wolf was said to have nursed Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome. Vestal Virgins would offer holy salt cakes and the priests would sacrifice a dog and a goat, smearing the animal blood onto the foreheads of youths of noble birth who, clad only in a goatskin thong, later led a band of revelers known as the luperci in the performance of such antics as whipping fields of crops and bystanders with a goatskin strip (known as thefebrua). Women gently lashed in such a fashion were thought to become fertile…even those known to be barren. The act of such lashings or whippings was known as februatio…both this word and the wordfebrua come from the Latin meaning “to purify.” The naming of the month of February is believed to have originated from this meaning. February 15 (the Ides of February) was the second day of Lupercal and the third day of Parentalia…a day some sources believe was dedicated to Juno Februata or Juno the Fructifier, Roman Goddess of Women and Marriage. During the Luperci, the names of willing young women were placed into a box or urn and drawn by lot by every young, unmarried man. The youths and maidens who were thus matched would be considered partners during the course of the coming year, which began in March. Although such matches were generally for sexual gratification, it was not unusual for the pairings to eventaully culminate in marriage. According to other sources, the tradition of Valentine’s Day is derived from a time when hordes of ravenous wolves roamed the immense wilderness area outside Rome where shepherds (the city’s earliest inhabitants) kept their flocks. The God Lupercus (from the Latin lupus meaning “wolf”) was believed to watch over the herdsmen and their animals and keep them safe from the hungry predators. Every February, in this scenario, the Romans celebrated a feast (also known as Lupercalia) to honor Lupercus in order that no harm would come to the shepherds and their flocks. This celebration continued to be held long after wolves no longer presented a problem to the Roman countryside. Yet another theory on the ceremonial source of this day is that the festival was actually held to honor Faunus who, like the Greek God Pan, was a God of Herds and Crops. As is apparent, the true origin of this festival is so ancient, that even scholars of the Last Century B.C. were unable to officially determine its roots with any degree of certainty. However, there is no question about the importance of the ceremony. Records show that Mark Anthony was Master of the Luperci Colleges of Priests and chose the Lupercalia festival of the year 44 B.C. as the proper time for the offering of the crown to Julius Caesar. With the advent of Christianity, priests attempted to replace such ancient heathen practices. In the Fifth Century A.D., the Church resolved to abolish this pagan celebration by creating its own holiday around the same date and selecting a saint who was remembered for his devotion to love. In A.D. 496, Pope Gelasius outlawed the Lupercian Festival, but cleverly retained the Juno Februata lottery. However, in order to lend the festivities Christian meaning and eliminate the pagan overtones, the drawing of saints’ names were substituted for the names of unmarried girls. The names were placed into an urn or box and then young people (both male and female) drew a name from the container. During year which followed, the youths and maidens were supposed to emulate the life of the Saint whose name they had drawn. It took some time for this new tradition to garner popularity, but eventually more and more Romans relinquished the Lupercian ceremonies. Nonetheless, young Roman males, who had been hoping to meet potential mates during the time of the Festival, were not totally satisfied with now having a lottery of saints’ names instead, and insituted their own custom of offering women whom they admired and wished to court handwritten greetings of affection on February 14. By the Fourteenth Century, the Church had reverted back to the use of of girls’ names. During the Sixteenth Century, Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geveva, made another attempt was made to institute Saintly Valentines, but it proved equally (of not more) unsuccessful as the first and was certainly shorter-lived. Eventually, the Church looked for a suitable Patron Saint of Love to take the place of the heathen Lupercus. They found an appropriate choice in Saint Valentine. During the medieval era of chivalry, the names of English maidens and bachelors were put into boxes and drawn out in pairs. Each couple exchanged gifts and the girl became the man’s sweetheart for a year. He wore her name on his sleeve and was bound by duty to attend and protect her (the accepted origin of the phrase, “to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve”). This old custom of drawing names was considered a good omen for love and often foretold a wedding. In 1537, King Henry VIII declared, by Royal Charter, that all England would celebrate February 14 as “Saint Valentine’s Day” and with the passage of time, February 14 became the traditional date for exchanging love messages and simple gifts (such as flowers or candy), with Saint Valentine becoming the accepted Patron Saint of Lovers.

Phew! That was a lot to take in… now have a cute picture of Valentine’s kittehz!

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Chloe out.

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One thought on “Things I have learnt about Valentine’s Day (Part 2)

  1. Wow, that’s a lot of information on Valentine’s Day. :O

    Thanks for such an interesting read. :D Never knew there was so much different stuff about it.

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