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Be Our Valentine!

Valentine’s Day is celebrated every year on February 14. When we think about Valentine’s Day, we think of love and romance, of roses and chocolates and restaurants filled with couples. But did you know that over the years Valentine’s Day has gone through some very drastic changes? In this blog post we will look at how Valentine’s Day started, how it has evolved, differences around the world and finally how you can celebrate Valentine's Day at Zoni!

A Student showing us how to celebrate Valentine's Day

The history of Valentine’s Day

The history of Valentine’s Day is a bit of a mystery! In fact, it is very likely that Valentine’s Day as we know it is a mix of 3 different stories. Let’s start with the oldest of these stories, and the place where Valentine’s Day most likely began!


Lupercalia was an ancient Roman festival, which today isn’t spoken about very often! Lupercalia was a pagan festival held in mid-February to celebrate that Spring was on the way! Unlike Valentine’s Day, this festival was more about fertility than love.

Priests of the Order of Luperci are said to have gathered at the cave where Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome) were raised by a wolf. In the cave, the priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. Then they would cut the goat’s hide into strips, dip the pieces in blood and return to the village.

In the village any woman the priests encountered was gently slapped with the bloody pieces of goat hide – not very romantic at all! However, in ancient Rome this was considered very lucky! The Romans believed it would make them more fertile in the coming year.

Legend says that later in the afternoon, all of the young, unmarried Roman women would place their names into a big urn in the town square. Then each unmarried man would draw a name from the urn. The woman he drew would then become his “girlfriend” for the rest of the year.

Lupercalia was outlawed at the end of the 5th century by Pope Gelasius because it was “un-Christian”. Instead, he declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day.

The first legend of St Valentine

The Catholic Church has made at least three different men named Valentine (Valentinus) saints. The 3 most famous St Valentines were all martyred, making it even more difficult to know which Saint is THE St Valentine!

One popular legend says that Valentine was a Roman priest in the third century. At this time Claudius II was the Emperor. Claudius II believed that single men were better soldiers than married ones. As a result, he made it illegal for young men to get married! Valentine thought this was ridiculous and continued to secretly perform marriages. Eventually, Valentine was discovered, and Claudius sentenced him to death.

The second legend of St Valentine

Another popular Valentine story, says that Valentine was put to death after helping wrongly arrested Christians to escape from Roman prisons where they were regularly beaten and tortured. The legend goes on to say that Valentine, who ended up in prison himself, actually sent the first “Valentine” greeting after falling in love with the jailer’s daughter. It is said that before he died, he wrote her a love letter and signed it “From your Valentine'' – a phrase that is still widely used today!

Nobody knows which of these stories is true. What is likely, is that Valentine’s Day as we know it, has come from a blend of these stories and perhaps others too. One thing is certain, Valentine’s Day has a long and interesting history!

Child giving her grandmother a Valentine's Day card

Valentines today

Over the years the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated has changed. Instead of being just for lovers and romantics, it is now a day to celebrate all kinds of love and friendship! This isn’t new though. By the middle of the 1700s, it was common for friends, as well as lovers, to give each other small gifts and notes. Cards began to replace letters in the 1900’s and were an easy way for people to express their feelings. It also became cheaper to post things which also helped Valentine’s Day cards become more popular.

Today, you can buy all kinds of Valentine’s Day cards – for your grandmother, your teacher, your doorman, or your friends! There is a card for everyone! In fact, you can even buy cards for your pets! It is estimated that Americans send around 145 million Valentine’s Day cards each year!

Gifts are also often given on Valentine’s Day. Traditionally things like red roses – symbolizing love, chocolates, soft-toys and/or jewelry were the most popular gifts to give. On Valentine’s Day restaurants are super busy! Some even set up extra tables-for-two to meet the demand. However, it’s not just couples who eat out! It’s becoming more and more popular for friends to go out together or, for people to have an “anti-Valentine’s Day” dinner instead! These are usually group dinners for single friends or for people who think Valentine’s Day is silly!

A couple holding hands - celebrate Valentine's Day!

Valentine’s Day around the world

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, including Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and New Zealand. Many other countries have their own variations of Valentine’s Day. For example, in Japan (and also other Asian countries) on Valentine’s Day, women give chocolate to men. One month later on White Day (March 14), men buy for women. White Day was started in Japan in 1978 as an ‘answer’ to Valentine’s Day.

Although Valentine’s Day has become more popular in Brazil, it is still a clear second place to “Dia dos namorados” or Couples Day! Also celebrated in Portugal, it is the day when couples celebrate their relationship! Much like Valentine’s Day people give cards and gifts and go out for a romantic date. Unlike Valentine’s Day, Dia dos namorados is exclusively for couples and is celebrated in June!

Another important day is March 8th. This is international Women’s Day and although for the most part, it is a celebration of women and womanhood, in some countries the way it is celebrated is similar to Valentine’s Day. In Russia, it is not called “Women’s Day” rather it is just “March 8”. On March 8 Russian men buy flowers (usually red roses, tulips or other spring flowers) and gifts for all the important women in their lives. This includes their mothers, wives, girlfriends, friends and even colleagues. It is a day to honor women’s personal, public and political achievements. On March 8, couples tend to go out for romantic dinners, but it is just as common for families to come together for a large family meal instead.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day at Zoni

At Zoni we always do our best to include American culture and celebrations into our curriculum. This means that we build in activities and vocabulary relevant to the holiday into our lessons. For Valentine’s Day students do things like practice writing cards and letters. It is also common for classes to celebrate together over lunch or snacks! Valentine's Day at Zoni is such a good chance to tell your teachers and classmates how much you apreciate them, or even make new friends with students from other classes.


Zoni students doing Valentine's Day activities in class
Zoni students enjoying Valentine's Day activities
Zoni students on Valentine's Day