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Origin of Valentine’s Day: 5 traditions and customs that should (still!) exist

Some claim that Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a modern invention, a way of encouraging consumerism through the exchange of gifts. There may be some truth in that, but do we really know what we’re celebrating, and where and how this tradition originated? In this article, we’ll try to answer that question and introduce you to 5 traditions and customs from elsewhere.

The origins of Valentine’s Day

The first “official” Valentine’s Day dates back to 498, when Pope Gelasius I included the feast in the Catholic liturgical calendar. However, the true origins of this festival dates back to ancient Rome and the unfortunate end of a priest, Valentine, who believed in and defended love between young people. According to one of the most widespread versions, Valentine was beheaded on February 14, 270.

Historians associate Valentine’s Day with an ancient three-day festival of the Roman Empire: the Lupercalia Feasts. These paid tribute to Lupercus, protector of shepherds, and to the she-wolf who, according to legend, fed Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome. This celebration preceded spring and took place during the month of February to praise fertility. In short, it was a pagan festival.

5 traditions and customs from elsewhere

As our retirement home welcomes French, English, Greek and Armenian guests, we thought it would be a good idea to devote a section to the customs of different cultures.

1- In England, Valentine’s Day tradition calls for women to place five laurel leaves under their pillow, two on each side and one in the middle, to dream of their future husband.

2- February 14 in Japan is quite similar to what is done in most countries on this date. On the other hand, it’s women who give men chocolates as Valentine’s gifts. It’s not just any chocolate. It is in fact determined by the nature of the relationship. For example, there will be one kind of chocolate for your employer, another for your best friend and yet another for your partner.

3- Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day, Finland celebrates Friendship Day. Close friends send each other letters, and most couples choose this day to get engaged. After all, isn’t our partner our best friend? As we all know, in old age, people sometimes find themselves alone. Living in a retirement home is a great way to make friends with other residents.

4- In Wales, people don’t celebrate the festival of love on February 14, but on January 25, the day of “St Dwynwen”, the patron saint of lovers. The traditional Valentine’s Day gift in Wales is a love spoon which, depending on its design, takes on different meanings, such as good luck, support or the keys to a man’s heart.

5- Did you know that Valentine’s Day was first celebrated in Denmark only 15 years ago? In this country, instead of flowers or chocolates, lovers exchange love letters with photos of themselves. Men anonymously send their beloved a “joke letter” containing a funny poem or rhyme. If the woman finds out who the sender is, she wins an egg for the next Easter.