Valentine’s Day: Celebrate your love story, friendships & sweetness

Pages of book folded into heart shape

What’s your love story? Photo by Kate Ter Haar, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14: Declare love for someone special in your life today without the limits of chocolates and roses—Valentine’s Day has a rich and varied history that includes friendship, sacred marriages and even courtly love. From Finland, where friendship is celebrated, to the religious devotion of three early Christian saints named Valentine, one message is clear: Today is the day to express boundless love, however and to whomever you see fit!

Vintage postcard child cupid with wings pulling wagon with flowers and gifts

Photo by Anaiba Estevez, belongs to Laminas Vintage, courtesy of Picasa

Some historians point to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia as the start of the modern cupid’s day; ancient Greeks also observed a mid-February festival, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera. In the High Middle Ages, the connection between mid-February and ooey-gooey love began to cement—particularly when Geoffrey Chaucer composed Parlement of Foules for King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. News of the Parlement spread rapidly, and courtly love soon flourished. Lovers across the country began expressing their feelings for each other on Valentine’s Day, with long poems, flowers and notes.

Did you know? The earliest credited “valentine”—aside from the alleged note written in a jail cell by St. Valentine, more than 1,000 years earlier—was composed in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife.

By 1797, a romantic Valentine’s Day was all the rage in Europe. A British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer to encourage note-writing lovers, and soon after, printers began mass-producing Valentine cards. Today, the U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 1 billion valentines are sent or given annually.

ST. VALENTINE—OR ST. VALENTINES?

Historically, there were three Saint Valentines in Christian history, all of whom are honored on St. Valentine’s Day. Of the three, the most noted Valentine was a Roman priest who assisted persecuted Christians during the 3rd century. This Valentine performed secret weddings for soldiers, and even handed out paper heart cutouts to symbolize God’s love. On the night before his execution, legend has it that Valentine wrote a letter to his jailer’s daughter, signing it, “from your Valentine.”

VALENTINE’S DAY AROUND THE WORLD

Table set fancy food plate empty wine glasses restaurant

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Globally, Valentine’s Day is about much more than romantic love. In Finland and Estonia, Valentine’s Day celebrates friendship; in some Latin countries, the holiday is known as “Day of Love and Friendship.” In Asia, two holidays—Valentine’s Day, and its reciprocal holiday, White Day—make for two expensive occasions for exchanging gifts with that special someone. Traditional Hindu and Islamic cultures generally disregard Valentine’s Day, though in Iran, efforts have been made in recent years to establish a festival of love for mothers and wives on Feb. 7.

RECIPES & DIY IDEAS ‘FROM THE HEART’

Does home cooking impress your valentine? Try recipes from Food & Wine, Food Network and New York Times.

On-screen romance blooms with these suggestions for the most romantic movies on Netflix.

Single? Try this list of movies for Valentine’s Day.

Looking for date ideas? Check out these, from Huffington Post.

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