Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Facts, Customs and Superstitions

Today, Valentine's Day is celebrated all over the world, although it remains the most popular in US and Great Britain. While much of this holiday in our times is extremely commercialized, it is still a beautiful day for expressing love. Although many (myself included) believe that love should be expressed every day. But I've always been interested in the origins and customs of various holidays, and Valentine's Day holds special appeal to me as a romance writer.
The origins of Valentine's Day are not very clear. According to Christian tradition, it is a day named after a saint who lived during Roman times. The legend says that when the Roman Emperor Claudius realized that men didn't not want to be drafted into his armies, but wanted to say with their wives and families instead, he got mad and decided to outlaw marriage. Couples in love were desperate to get married and a priest named Valentine was the only one who went against the decree and performed wedding ceremonies in secret. Eventually Claudius found out and ordered the priest arrested and executed. The execution took place on February 14th, which was also coincided with the Roman festival of love.

Here is where the traditions mix and,  most probably, the origins of the holiday go much further back to the times of pagan Rome. Certainly, many of the customs and superstitions seem to be steeped in ancient times, though many other ones developed over centuries.

Here are the most popular customs, traditions and superstitions of Valentine's Day.

  •  During the Middle Ages, people believed that birds found their mates on February 14th.
  • During the Middle Ages, people believed that birds found their mates on February 14th.
  • According to English tradition, the first man an unmarried woman saw on 14th February would become her husband; 
  • If the names of all a girl's suitors were written on paper and wrapped in clay and the clay put into water, the piece that rose to the surface first would contain the name of her husband-to-be.
  • If a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a rich person.
  • In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for one week.
  • In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favorite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, "You unlock my heart!"
  • In Denmark, people send pressed white flowers called snowdrops to their friends.  The men also send valentines called a gaekkebrev, which means a joking or fun letter.  Instead of signing his name, the sender uses dots for each letter in his name.   In Great Britain, some people also send valentines signed with dots.
  •  If you find a glove on the road on Valentine's Day, your future beloved will have the other missing glove.
  •  If you see a flock of doves on Valentine's Day, you will have a happy, peaceful marriage.
    It was thought that birds chose their mate for the year on February 14. Doves mate for life and therefore have become a symbol of loyalty and love.
  • Red roses symbolize love and passion.  12 red roses are traditionally the ultimate declaration of love.
  • In Medieval times, those who could not write were allowed to sign documents with an "X". The signer placed a kiss upon the "X" to show sincerity.  And so X came to represent a kiss.  

Are there any other customs and superstitions you know about Valentine's Day? Do you find these interesting? Do you have any personal Valentine's Day customs?


1 comment:

  1. I love these, how fascinating! And that's such a surprise about people drawing names from a bowl in the middle ages. That's what we did in middle school!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...