Every February 14, many people prepare to celebrate their couple and their love for Valentine's Day. But where does this tradition really come from?

Valentine's Day

It is an ancient celebration, most of whose traditions have been lost, but some rituals still exist today, such as sending cards or giving flowers and chocolates. Considered as the celebration of couples already formed as much as the celebration of those looking for a soul mate, Valentine's Day is also the celebration of friendship in some countries such as the United States.

The origin of Valentine’s day

The feast of lovers is said to have its origins in ancient Rome and the pagan festival of Lupercalia, which took place between February 13 and 15. The unromantic party gave men the opportunity to whip women by chasing them in the street (to make them fertile) before drawing lots for the name of the one who would become their partner for the time of the party or more.

Another legend said that Valentine's Day is named after a priest, a great defender of love and marriage, who was executed on February 14, 270, for having secretly celebrated Christian weddings. Pope Alexander VI will also make Saint Valentine the patron saint of lovers in 1496.

However, it was not until the 20th century that Valentine's Day took on the importance that we know of, with the exchange of gifts and cards decorated with romantic birds, roses, and red hearts.

Who is Valentin de Terni or Saint Valentine?

Valentin de Terni, better known as Saint Valentin, was a monk who refused to submit to Emperor Claudius the II The Gothic. At that time, Emperor Claudius the II wanted to prohibit weddings to prevent men from staying with their fiancées rather than going to war. However, Valentin de Terni continued to marry off couples and challenged the emperor's authority. He was then imprisoned! It was there where he met the daughter of his jailer: Julia, a young blind


She demanded Valentin to describe the world to her. Through meetings and exchanges, they fell in love until a miracle occurred: Julia regained her sight! This miracle was to be shared everywhere. So much so that Claude the II, who did not like Christians, pronounced to condemn Valentin to death. Then, he became a martyr and will be considered Saint Valentine by Pope Gelas I, who decided to honor each February 14, in 494.

The symbols

Several symbols are representative of Valentine's Day, such as Cupid and his bow (the Roman god of love), birds (seen as messengers of spring and love), and flowers, mainly red roses because red symbolizes passion.

What animal is associated with Valentine's Day?

In the Middle Ages, several carnivals, especially in love, took place in February. "The carnival is an inversion of the social order, a ritual of celebration, a day of celebration where everything is possible, analyzes Jean-Claude Kaufmann. Love carnivals are then parties around the bear, which has an extremely sexual symbolism. Men dress up as bears, grab women and drag them to their lair, where many rapes occur. It was a violent and sexist practice but very widespread and unpunished at the time. »


The first Valentine's card

It seems that Prince Charles of Orléans was the first man to send a Valentine's Day card, officially at least. Jailed in the Tower of London, he sent a poem to his beloved, Mary of Cleves, in 1440. He married the latter, who was 14, twenty-one days after his release.

Far too obscene

In the 19th century, anonymous Valentine's Day greeting cards really became popular. But some mailings were so obscene that some governments even had to ban them.

The mystery of the Xs

The "X" symbolize kisses; it is famous. And we find them plenty on Valentine's Day cards. This tradition goes back to the origins of Catholicism when the cross, in the shape of an "X," represents sworn faith. After, those who could not write had to kiss a cross, which had the value of an oath. It is in memory of this practice that the cross has become a symbol of the kiss.


Finally, Cupid, a famous character linked to Valentine's Day and personified by a young child with a bow and arrow, represents the god of love. Its name comes from the Latin Cupido, which means desire. He would be the son of Mars and Venus. If his arrow hits you, you will fall in love with the first person you meet. This legend still has its followers, more than 2000 years later.

A huge success in the United States

It was not until the 15th century that Valentine's Day took a poetic turn and poured into courtly love. It is a domestication of these violent rituals, which will soften them, underlines Jean-Claude Kaufmann. This poetic turn was initiated in France and then spread to England, where a tradition of love poems and drawings developed, then of cards. Finally, in 1840, these English cards reached the United States and instantly met with immense success, at a time when the young nation was looking for new celebrations.

The tradition of Valentine's Day continues and will return to France during the Second World War, thanks to American soldiers who praise the merits of this holiday to seduce French women, buying them flowers and gifts. The commercial interest of the holiday did not escape florists, papermakers, and chocolate makers. However, the 1950s, still very traditional from the point of view of mores, were hardly conducive to seduction.

Valentine's day around the world

How do other countries celebrate Valentine's Day?

Japan: women give chocolates to men, not only to the one they love but also to their colleagues, friends, etc. In return, they receive a gift on March 14 (usually worth more than the chocolates they gave); this day is called White Day because the gifts received are supposed to be white.

United States: Valentine's Day is a very important and celebrated holiday. You declare your love to your loved ones (and not just your lover), you send and receive dozens of cards: to friends, to family, and sometimes to your teacher.

China: Valentine's Day has gradually developed since the 80s. There is also a traditional festival called Qi Qiao Jie, which is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th Chinese month (which often corresponds to a day in July or August). This festival is based on a legend: that of the fairy who married a mere mortal. When the goddess of the heavens realized this, she made a wide river in the sky (the Milky Way) in order to separate the lovers forever. Once a year, the magpies form a bridge and thus allow lovers to meet for one night (the 7th of the 7th month).

Brazil: El dia dos namorados (lovers' day) is celebrated on June 12.

Catalonia: Sant Jordi is celebrated on April 23: women offer books to men, and men offer roses to women.