Why is Valentine’s Day celebrated on February 14? Both ancient Christians and Roman traditions celebrated February as the month of love and, more specifically, ancient Romans celebrated Lupercalia, a feast in celebration of fertility. The history of San Valentino (Valentine’s Day) goes back to the third century Roman empire, and it is shrouded in mystery. Starting from the Saint himself, we don’t know much about Saint Valentine’s life. He probably was a priest or bishop who lived in Rome in the third century. However, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different Saints named Valentine who died as martyrs. Even today, it is not clear whether these three saints were actually the same person or three different individuals who happened to have the same name and be bishops or priests.
Thanks to the English author, Geoffrey Chaucer, Saint Valentine reached the level of popularity he is now known for. In his book, “The Canterbury Tales”, Chaucer tells the story of Valentine, the priest who kept performing marriages for young couples, even though they had been forbidden by the Emperor himself. Due to his disobedience, Valentine was sentenced to death, and eventually became a martyr of the Christian Church.
Saint Valentine’s story was first told by Chaucer in the Middle Ages, and still survives today in most Western countries. On the one hand, in Italy, Valentine’s Day has been turning into a so-called “festa commerciale”, meaning that very few people value its original and most authentic meaning, and the vast majority just takes this opportunity to gift their loved ones with something special. On the other hand, celebrating Valentine’s Day is a fairly recent tradition that Italians seem to enjoy. On this special day, lovers strive to find the perfect gift for their loved ones, meaning both partners, family members and friends, and the gifts have to be innovative rather than predictable.
Even though the old fashioned box of chocolate stands the test of time, new ideas have become increasingly popular. The old dates at the restaurant are transitioning into fancy dinners at home or relaxing home spas.
What I’ve been observing is that partners are more willing to gift their significant ones with something unique that steps out of traditional rules.
Books, photo albums, cooking classes, video games and customized portraits are becoming more popular, as well as daily trips and yearly membership cards. Young couples don’t do it by the book, they are figuring out the best way to make this Day of Love worth remembering. Flowers never get old, not only on Valentine’s Day, as well as jewelry and perfumes, which are highly advertised in Italy these days.
Italian companies have perceived these changes happening in society and their advertisements are becoming more inclusive and flexible, and less tied to tradition. Their new products reflect new trends among younger generations, but they still remain loyal to the older audience promoting their classic lineups of products. Italians never miss a chance to celebrate the amore for family and friends. I wish you Buon San Valentino and may you spend this day with your loved ones, whoever they are.