Valentine’s Day and the evolution of culture バレンタインデーと文化の進化

2014.02.07 (Fri)

JD Hancock via Flickr Creative Commons

February means Valentine’s Day. In Japan, it’s become normal for women to give chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day. Years ago in Australian, it was probably mostly thought of as a religious day, and there was no set way to celebrate it. But lately, more people don’t know about the link to religion and, like Japan, celebrate the day of “love” in whatever way they want. Although, because we don’t have “White Day” (in Japan, 14 March, where men give chocolates to women), on Valentine’s Day it is normal to give cards, chocolates or flowers to friends of any gender as well as romantic partners.

I have written about this sort of thing before, but this is one of the really interesting things about working in international relations – learning about how the differences between how countries and cultures take on and change things like Valentine’s Day.

Apparently, in Roman times, Valentine’s Day was the day before the festival to ask the gods for a bountiful harvest, and was a holy day for Juno, the queen of the gods and of family and weddings. Before that, it’s thought to have been a pagan celebration of the start of Spring. After the spread of Christianity, it became the commemoration day for St Valentinus (these days, St Valentine), a Christian martyr who was put to death for secretly performing marriage ceremonies for Roman soldiers, who were not allowed to marry at the time. So, because the champion of love, St Valentinus, was put to death on 14 February, it became his day.

The way Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Australia is changing, and, similar to how Halloween is becoming more popular, it may continue to change. In Japan as well, we are starting to see things like ‘friend chocolate’, ‘reverse chocolate’ and ‘self chocolate’, so the odds are that it will keep changing here as well. Another example is in Korea, where Japan’s idea of White Day was adopted, “Black Day” has  also been invented. Black Day is a day when single people get together to wear black, eat black food and celebrate (or commiserate) being single.

Finally, a piece of advice for those of you who are anxious about this year’s Valentine’s Day. If you consider the whole of human history, the current way that we celebrate Valentine’s Day is only a tiny blip. So how about inventing a way to celebrate it that suits you?








  1. A very nice way to wrap up this entry. I’m not in department stores every often, but I do love oogling at all the decorative chocolates around this time of year. I think it’s starting to become a day to celebrate my sweet tooth instead of love. XD

    • Thanks! I know, I like the idea of making chocolates and packaging them up much more than I like the idea of actually giving them to people, if that makes sense. So much pretty stuff!

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