While this is not your conventional story about Valentine’s Day that’s filled with romance, it’s a fascinating take on a tradition that is widely celebrated on February 14 in many countries around the world.
Strange but true…
You are looking at the skull of an ancient Roman Martyr named Valentine which resides in the Rome, in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Whether or not it’s the skull of the martyr who inspired Valentine’s day is a matter of some debate, to put it mildly. Bound up in this debate is the unexpected history of one of the world’s most curious holidays.
Let’s start from the beginning…who was Saint Valentine?
So what did this guy, er, guys, have to do with love and greeting cards, and overpriced restaurants?
What does an English medieval poet have to do with a Roman martyr?
So Valentine’s Day is basically a sham invented by a poet in order to make his lines rhyme?
That’s actually pretty heartwarming. I thought it was just another Hallmark Holiday…
Not so fast. Modern Valentine’s day is very much a product of the various industries that benefit from it – namely, stationery, chocolate, flowers, and jewelry. Every year, billions of dollars are spent on these items, even in countries where Western holidays are frowned upon or outlawed have seen an upsurge in Valentine’s Day gifts in recent years. In Saudi Arabia, where the holiday is illegal, there is a thriving black market for red roses and heart-shaped chocolates in February.
Interestingly in Japan, possibly due to a translation error in an early chocolate ad (the holiday was imported from the United States after the Second World War), women are expected to give chocolate to lovers, boyfriends, and even male co-workers. However, Japan also celebrates a gift-giving tradition on March 14th where they are expected to give white chocolates of equal or greater value to anyone who gave them chocolate in February.
All of this for an old skull sitting in a church in Rome?
by Martina V.View more by Martina ›
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