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Beware the Ides of February -Valentine's Day!

all you need is love graphic

Genealogy involves more then "the begats" as seen in the Bible in Matthew 1, "Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;..." The successful family historian must include the study of history and cultures to help determine where a family came from, where they may have moved to, when they married, and who they married. Let's have fun and take a timely look at how Valentine's Day is marked around the world.

Most know that St. Valentine was martyred in ancient Rome on February 14th. But the Day's origins can be traced to the Roman festival of fertility dedicated to the god Faunus called Lupercalia held during the Ides of February - the 13th through the 15th. Naked men would spank or beat (depending upon which version you care to believe) willing women to increase their fertility. Men would draw the names of women from a jar for coupling for the days of the festival, or longer if it worked out.

mom and daughter celebrate Valentines

Hand made cards were exchanged in the Middle Ages and this practice expanded with the coming of the Industrial Revolution when cards could be mass produced. Cards are now exchanged between friends and family, not just lovers. And let's not forget the conversation candy hearts that were begun in 1866!

In the US and UK it's an all out celebration of flowers, chocolates, and dinner dates. In Japan and South Korea, it's all about the men! Men get the gifts and the pampering, but they make up for it in March for White Day when the women get the presents.

dancing cartoon pig

The pig is the symbol of love (and lust) in Germany so gifts in porcine shapes are exchanged! The Philippine government arranges a giant mass wedding every year, and Peru has historically done the same, with the orchid being the favorite flower as opposed to the rose.

If your significant other gives you a bouquet of 108 roses in Taiwan they are proposing marriage! South African women will write their loved one's name on a piece of paper and pin it to their sleeve bringing the classic metaphor of wearing one's heart on one's sleeve to life.

Irish Claddagh ring

Irish celebrants traditionally gift a Claddagh ring. The Claddagh is one famous symbol of Ireland consisting of two hands (friendship), a

crown (loyalty) and love (heart). A single woman will wear the ring on her right hand with the heart pointing up, and a married woman wears it on her left hand with the heart pointed towards herself.

Valentine's Day came late to Russia, it was first celebrated in the 90's. People there share western cultural standard gifts of flowers, candy, dinner throughout Russia, EXCEPT in Belgorod, a province where Valentine's Day celebrations were banned in 2011 to "spiritual safety." I'll put a link to the Moscow Times article at the bottom of the page here.

Italians celebrate "La Festa Degli Innamorati" in a big way, especially in Verona where the festival extends for four days and includes a love letter writing contest!

In Finland and other countries around the world the day is known as "Friend's Day." Mexico also celebrate friendship as the date is referred to as "El Día del Amor y la Amistad" (the day of love and friendship). 21st century Valentine's Day is becoming more and more about family and friends and less about couples. As more than half of the people in the US identify as single according to the Census Bureau, this seems to explain the new designation of February 14th as "Single Awareness Day" or SAD in the last decade or two.

If you're feeling sad or alone, experts suggest spreading your love around your immediate circle. Send cards to your friends, cook dinner for your parents or have a potluck with friends, and treat yourself to a nice box of chocolates!

Pop art Love graphic

As I read somewhere, "be better, not bitter." Why not start your own new tradition? Volunteer for your favorite charity. Clean out that closet of old memories and donate items for the less fortunate. Go to the library or online and help out another genealogist with lookups. FamilyTreeDNA has DNA testing on sale until the 14th, a new way to look at "swapping spit."

If you would like some help with lookups for your tree or family history, pop me off an email at for a free quote. I will be indulging myself doing genealogy, as usual, before dinner on Valentine's and every day!

Wishing you all a happy, warm, and safe Ides of February,

Leslie Ryan

Moscow Times link for Belgorod story:

No compensation is received for any links or referrals. No copyright infringement is intended.


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