Valentine's Across Cultures
A popular origin story for this day of friends and lovers is that Valentinus went to prison for marrying soldiers and tending to persecuted Christians in Rome.
It became the romantic feast of chocolates, flowers, and jewels not through Hallmark, but with the help of poets like Chaucer in the 14th century.
If you're a teacher with a diverse class, make sure providing hearts or cards for all other children is optional, as parents with a Muslim faith may have objections.
I hope you take this day to appreciate and love yourself, as well as your friends or partners.
It's true, American schmalz has largely taken over and most of your stores will have at least one pink and red aisle right now.
Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories. (Wikipedia)
The British Empire included Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Sudan, and other African countries at the time, so it's no wonder it's widespread and celebrated.
Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, and mainland Spain celebrate Valentine's same as most Anglo-Western cultures, with the exception of Cataluña - here it's on Sant Jordi (April 23rd) where boys give girls a rose, and girls give boys a book.
In India, different states and different religions have different customs. Many celebrate Spring Goddesses around early February, and traditionalists see Western Valentine's as yet another commercialized event.
Estonia and Finland call it "Friend's Day", so getting a rose doesn't mean he loves you.
The Greek have another Saint to protect lovers, Hyacinth of Caesarea, and she's celebrated on July 3rd.
In Spanish-speaking South America it's a hybrid día del amor y de la amistad (day of love and friendship), so nobody has to feel lonely.
Guatemala calls it día del cariño (affection day).
In Brazil and Portugal, it's dia dos namorados (day for lovers / those who are in love).
The Philippines and Sweden call it heart's day or all heart's day. It's the busiest day for florists.
South Korea and Japan have joined the feast in the 20th century. Japanese boys give dark chocolate to the girls they like on February 14th, and the girls reciprocate with white chocolate on March 14th. Days and chocolates are reversed in South Korea.
How are you going to celebrate this year?
Image by terren in Virginia, flickr, Creative Commons License