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1.05. Valentine’s Day

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1.05. Valentine’s Day

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Origin and history of the lovers' day: Valentine's Day   Introduction.   SAINT-VALENTINE - In ancient Rome, Valentine of Terni...
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Origin and history of the lovers’ day: Valentine’s Day




SAINT-VALENTINE – In ancient Rome, Valentine of Terni was known for marrying believers.

He lived a love story that gave birth to the myth. Here is everything you need to know about the origin and beliefs about this holiday.



a) Who is Saint Valentine?

b) History

c) Valentine’s Day around the world

d) Who is Cupid, the symbol of Valentine’s Day?

e) Recipes

f) Poems

g) Valentine’s Day gifts :


a) Who is Saint Valentine (There are several theories about Valentine’s Day).


We know the message, the gifts, the meals… But what about its history? The celebration of love has its roots in ancient Rome. A thousand-year-old tradition that returns every year on 14 February, it first existed in the form of the Lupercalia, pagan rites held at the end of the year (end of February in Roman times) and intended to purify themselves. These festivities changed from pagan to Christian and the celebration of the surrounding nature was replaced by flowers, restaurants and gifts from lovers…

But who was this Valentine that we celebrate every February 14th? We have to go back several centuries, to the 3rd century AD, to discover the very romantic story of this man, who is still unclear whether he was a priest or a monk. In the early days of Christianity, in an ancient Rome that persecuted Christians, Valentine of Terni was known for marrying believers. Unions that did not please Emperor Claudius II the Goth, who preferred that men turn to his wars rather than to women and the building of a home. According to legend, it was the ruler himself who ordered Valentinus’ arrest.

According to the legend, Valentine befriended Julia, the daughter of his jailer or of a magistrate in charge of his surveillance, depending on the version. Blind from birth, she fell in love with the prisoner, who told her about the beauty of the world while she brought him food. Through her contact with Valentine, Julia finally regains the use of her eyes one evening when a light bursts forth from the cell. Through this miracle and his words, Valentine is said to have converted the young Roman woman to Christianity, along with her entire family. Incensed by the publicity of these events, Claudius II ordered Valentine’s execution. As a martyr, he was beaten and decapitated on the Via Flaminia on 14 February 269.


b) History of Valentine’s Day 


The tradition of Valentine’s Day did not begin with the myth of Valentine of Terni, which was fabricated by the papacy after his death. It is a legacy of ancient Rome, but has its origins in another event: the Lupercalia. Organised every 15 February, the Lupercalia celebrate Faunus Lupercus, god of fertility, shepherds and flocks. A purification ritual, organised at the end of the Roman year (which begins on 1 March), this pagan festival takes place in three stages. First, the priests sacrifice a goat in the Lupercal cave (on the side of Mount Palatine), where, according to legend, the she-wolf suckled the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. They then smear young men from noble families with the blood of the sacrifice in a ceremony that symbolises the purification of shepherds.

This is followed by the “race of the luperks”, during which priests and young men, covered with the skin of the sacrificed animals, run through the streets of the city and whip passers-by with strips cut from the skin of the same animal. Women, in particular, stand in their way, hoping for a happy pregnancy and a painless delivery. Finally, the celebrations end with a big banquet, during which the young men draw lots to choose their mate for the evening. A practice that sometimes leads to the formation of lasting couples and, why not, to marriage.


A Christian event


Valentine’s Day was then instituted by the Church only to counteract the pagan festivals. This hypothesis, supported by many historians, is not attested to by any written source of the time. The only certainty is that at the end of the fifth century, the Lupercalia was one of the last pagan rites still observed in a predominantly Christian Rome. Pope Gelasius I sent a “letter against the Lupercalia” to the senator Andromache, who had shown a certain attachment to this traditional festival. In this letter, he criticised the immoral behaviour that took place during this celebration, mocked the superstitions of Christians who honoured demons to ward off bad luck and pointed out that these celebrations had not prevented epidemics twenty years earlier. However, contrary to popular belief, the pope did not ban this pagan festival: he merely pointed out the contradiction between the Christian faith and the celebration of Lupercalia. In 496, Gelasius chose to commemorate Saint Valentine on 14 February, which became the patron saint of lovers. This would give rise to a potentially most romantic festival.


Cupid, the god of love


In Roman mythology, Cupid is the equivalent of the Greek god of love Eros. The personified desire of love, Cupid (from the Latin cupido, desire) is often depicted as a child, armed with a bow and a quiver full of arrows, faithful companion of his mother Venus, goddess of love and beauty.

He is also known as the hero of the Psyche legend. According to this myth, Psyche is a princess so beautiful that the inhabitants of the kingdom abandon the cult of Venus for her. Furious, the goddess decides to punish the young girl and orders Cupid to inspire her to fall in love with the ugliest person he can find. But the young god falls in love with the princess and cannot accept what his mother asks of him. After sending an oracle to the king, who asks him to abandon his daughter on an isolated rock, he has Psyche taken away by the Zephyr breeze, which carries her to a sumptuous palace in an unknown valley. He meets her every night, while she sleeps, in human guise, and makes her promise never to seek his appearance. Unfortunately, at the behest of her sisters, Psyche gives in to her curiosity and shines a light on her husband’s face while he is asleep. A drop of oil falling on his body wakes him up: he gets up and flies away. Inconsolable, Psyche goes in search of her husband and must overcome a series of tests imposed by Venus. At the end of these trials, Cupid, who misses his wife, obtains permission from Jupiter to take Psyche to Mount Olympus, where she becomes immortal and gives birth to a daughter called “Voluptuous”.


The dark side of Valentine’s Day


In “Saint-Valentin, mon amour!”, published by Les Liens qui libèrent, historian and sociologist Jean-Claude Kaufmann tells us about Valentine’s Day in ancient times. And he proves that the myth of Saint Valentine, as a Christian character, has been widely misused for political and religious purposes (see below). This is surprising for those who abhor this holiday, which is often considered too mawkish or overly commercial. 

According to Jean-Claude Kaufmann, there are several saints named Valentine who were originally protectors of “vineyards against phylloxera”, “cows”, “disease”, and even “onion cultivation”… But not of love. And there is worse. Jean-Claude Kaufmann makes an inventory of the dubious, to say the least, and even totally abject traditions which, over the centuries, have led to the birth of Valentine’s Day as we know it today. The author of “Valentine’s Day, my love!” cites in particular the cult of the bear, which was celebrated in the Middle Ages, far from the romantic Valentine we have come to know. Considered to be the animal closest to man and with an unbridled sexuality, it was the subject of many theories, such as that of Bishop William of Auvergne, who wrote in 1231 that “when a woman mates with a bear, she gives birth to a human baby”.

Further into the horror, the author recalls that during the ancient Lupercalia celebrations, the origin of Valentine’s Day, women were “purified” by whipping their buttocks or stomachs to ensure that they would become fertile. In the 15th century, in a society where sexuality was restricted and marriage was tightly controlled, another tradition involved socially accepted gang rapes. “Young men would go to the victim’s house during the night, make a racket under her windows and call her a”ribald “. Then, as she kept quiet, they would break down her door,” writes Jean-Claude Kaufmann, who indicates that the phenomenon was so massive that half of the men had already participated in this type of rape and that the victims, who were deprived of their virginity before marriage, had no other choice than prostitution. Several extracts from the book were compiled by France Info.


c) Valentine’s Day around the world


In many Western European countries, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 14 February by giving flowers and dining out, but some countries have much more unusual customs.

In Japan, it is the women who give gifts to the men. These are usually boxes of chocolate, and it is considered good manners to give them to work colleagues. On 14 March, White Day, men are expected to give a white gift, often flowers or chocolates, to the women who gave them them two months earlier.


Valentine’s Day is also popular in Egypt. As the holiday approaches, everything turns red: clothes, gifts, shops… It is not uncommon to come across a giant teddy bear or a huge vermillion heart. 


No pink or red everywhere in the streets, no hearts on every package, no flowers or chocolate in every shop in Finland. Every year on Valentine’s Day, the “women’s wear” championship is held. This is an obstacle course in which the husband carries his wife. Whoever finishes the race the fastest wins the weight of his wife in beer… 


Celebrating Valentine’s Day in South Africa is sure to be a party! Dinners, balls and long nights in discos are on the agenda! In this region, it is customary to pin the name of your partner on your sleeve. 


In Brazil, we don’t talk about Valentine’s Day, but about “dia dos namorados!” Lovers’ Day is celebrated on 12 June. It is an opportunity for Brazilians to celebrate love in the streets with colourful parades!


In Denmark, men do not give their sweethearts red roses, but white flowers. They also send romantic or funny poems, but instead of signing them, they simply write the number of points corresponding to the number of letters in their name. The women then have to solve the riddle to find their admirer. If they succeed, they receive an Easter egg as a gift. This is the Gaekkebrev tradition!


In Scotland, it is a tradition that the first person of the opposite sex you meet can become your Valentine for the day! It is possible to invite him/her to dinner or to give him/her flowers… but nothing obligatory! 


In Wales, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 25 January with the tradition of giving each other “love spoons”. These are wooden spoons engraved with hearts, padlocks or keys. 


In Catalonia, the festival of love is celebrated on Saint Jordi’s Day, 23 April. The tradition there is for men to give a rose to their partner, who in return gives them a book. Since 1995, UNESCO has designated 23 April as World Book and Copyright Day.


In the United States, Valentine’s Day is an extremely important holiday. Everyone sets aside the day to express their love to all their loved ones, and it is not just a day for lovers. Children take part in the event, putting on shows, making gifts and cards to give to their parents, classmates and even teachers!


Love also makes you travel… This holiday is omnipresent: whether here or elsewhere, there are great similarities in the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated. Chocolate, sweet words, jewellery, flowers and dinners out are still the most popular.


d) Who is Cupid, the symbol of Valentine’s Day?


“You are in love; borrow Cupid’s wings”, wrote William Shakespeare in “Romeo and Juliet”. 

Every year, Valentine’s Day honours lovers. Flowers, chocolates… There are many symbols that echo this popular holiday and Cupid, the little angel armed with his bow and arrow, is the personification of it.

But do you really know the history of this deity of Love?

In Roman mythology, Cupid (from the Latin Cupido, “desire”) is the god of amorous desire. The son of Venus, goddess of love and beauty, and Mars, god of war, he has the same origin and history as the Greek god of love, Eros.

The legend of the god of love is that anyone hit by one of his arrows falls in love with the first person they meet. In this, Cupid symbolises love at first sight and has inspired many artists throughout time and history.

Angel, winged child, young man…

His Greek counterpart Eros is represented as a handsome young man, often blindfolded to symbolise the blindness of love. He carries a bow with which he shoots arrows capable of inspiring desire in the hearts of gods and men. 

In ancient Rome, Cupid is represented as a mischievous child with wings, lightly dressed and also armed with a bow and a quiver of arrows. Often painted alongside his mother, the goddess Venus, representations of the deity of love vary. 

Sometimes in possession of a lighted torch, a helmet, a spear and a shield, sometimes crowned with roses, he appears in the air, on land, near fire and in the sea. But he also drives chariots, plays the lyre, rides lions, panthers or dolphins to symbolise that no creature is immune to the powers of love.


The Fable of Psyche or how love triumphs over adversity and trials

This episode of mythology is told in “The Golden Donkey or the Metamorphoses” in the 2nd century AD. According to the legend, the goddess Venus, jealous of the great beauty of the princess Psyche, charges her son Cupid with making her fall in love with a futile mortal. 


However, as he is about to accomplish his mission, Cupid himself falls under the princess’s spell, injuring himself with one of his arrows. Anxious not to reveal his identity to her, Cupid offers Psyche to live with him and joins her every evening after dark. The condition of their happiness? 


That the young girl never tries to discover his face. However, the beautiful princess, curious and influenced by her sisters, takes advantage of her lover’s sleep to illuminate the room and discover who is hiding under the features of her beloved, thus betraying the trust that Cupid had placed in her. The god of love then flees and Psyche, in despair, turns to Venus to win back her Cupid’s love. 


It is only after overcoming many trials that the mortal princess finally finds her beloved. They both win Olympus and the young girl, gaining immortality thanks to the nectar of the gods, becomes his wife for eternity.

e) What recipes for a Valentine’s Day meal?


An unusual element can be to include aphrodisiac ingredients such as oysters, chocolate or ginger in your dish. When it comes to drinks, learning how to make a cocktail will make your tête-à-tête even more sparkling. The combinations of cocktails are almost infinite and, here again, there are many sites that guide you step by step in their preparation.

Many of the most successful Valentine’s Day recipes feature seafood and light textures: 

Starter: cherry tomatoes of love

Main course: scallop carpaccio with mango and balsamic vinegar caramel…

Dessert: the forbidden whirlpool (a combination of different textures in the same dark chocolate, pecan and caramel cake)

All recipes to choose from

Decoration: why not decorate your table with an original napkin folding?


f) What are the best Valentine’s Day poems?


Whether you’ve been struck to the heart by Cupid’s arrow, are secretly in love or just a poet in your spare time, Valentine’s Day is the time to declare your love! And why not say it in verse? If you are moderately inspired, you can for example declaim these words by Carol Arnauld, former French singer, songwriter and composer in her “Chanson d’amour” (1988) with universal accents: 

Translation of the French poem:

“I have trouble finding the words 

That would be the most beautiful for you, 

Which would resemble you a little 

Would have the colour of your eyes.

Yes, I have trouble finding the words, 

The words of love, the right words, 

To tell you that I don’t know 

I don’t know how to live without you.”

If you definitely don’t feel like Rimbaud, you can also copy one of the works of a poet in love. One of those that Louis Aragon wrote for Elsa, for example, who became his lifelong muse (you can pick from the collection “Les Yeux d’Elsa”, 1942). Georges Sand’s “La lettre” also tops the list of perfect poems to bring out for the occasion.

In keeping with the erotic spirit of the times, why not recite to your love these lines by Victor Hugo – a naughty quatrain written by the author for a famous actress of his time, Alice Ozy:

Plato said, at the hour when the sunset fades:

– Gods of heaven, show me Venus emerging from the waves!

I say, with a heart full of deep ardour:

– Madam, show me Venus going to bed! 

AND ALSO: send a Valentine’s Day card to the one you love!


g) Valentine’s Day gifts: 


On our website, you will find new Valentine’s Day gifts that you can personalise to your own taste or Valentine’s Day gifts ready to give to your loved one.

Whether it’s an aromatherapy candle or a heart-shaped cushion with a choice of special Valentine’s Day labels that you can personalise with a love note for example.

On, you will be spoilt for choice for gifts dedicated to Valentine’s Day.



– France info

– L’internaute

– napkin folding for Valentine’s Day

-cooking recipes

– Wikipedia Valentine’s Day

“La saint-Valentin autour du monde” 

“Valentine’s Day around the world”

-Tendances orange: Qui est Cupidon, symbole de la Saint-Valentin ?

Who is Cupid, the symbol of Valentine’s Day?

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