Dating can be considered as the initial manifestation of the biological tendency to form heterosexual pairs by sexual attraction that develops in man from the organic changes of adolescence and puberty. The awareness of differences in physical and personality between people of either sex causes the first attempts of seduction and mutual affective stimulation. (AZEVEDO, 1975, p.11)
Perhaps due to the importance of the courtship ritual, one day in particular is dedicated to lovers and celebrated with many gifts and promises of love. On that day, commerce in general offers and suggests several gift options available to the different levels of purchasing power. To mark the occasion, some take the opportunity to make dating or engagement official, while many married couples renew their vows of mutual commitment.
However, the origin of the Valentine’s Day is controversial. There are several versions. One takes us back to ancient Rome and the ‘Lupercalia’, the pagan festival in honour of Juno, goddess of fertility and marriage. On this feast, boys drew the name of the girl who would be their companion during the time that the festival lasted, usually a month. This celebration took place for 800 years until 496 AD, when Pope Gelasius I banned and officially condemned the pagan festival. In an attempt to Christianise it, he replaced it by February 14, the day dedicated to St Valentine.
Another version says that the date is in honour of Bishop Valentine, a Christian martyr, who lived in ancient Rome. It is believed that Bishop Valentine fought against the orders of Roman Emperor Claudius II, whose determination forbade marriage during war, believing that single men were better fighters.
It is said that Bishop Valentine, against the orders of the Emperor, continued celebrating marriages of young people who came to him, so he was arrested and sentenced to death. During the completion of his sentence, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, who visited him regularly and whom he married in secret.
Valentine was executed on February 14 around the year 270 AD, and before he died, wrote a farewell message to his beloved, which he signed as “Boyfriend” or “From your Valentine.” Valentine became a martyr for Christians and a reference for lovers. Since then, many young people have begun to offer flowers and notes revealing that they still believed in love, and from this the custom of exchanging messages and gifts on Valentine’s Day may have arisen.
Another theory says that in the Middle Ages, 14 February was the first day of breeding birds, and therefore the lovers of the Middle Ages used this opportunity to leave messages of love on the doorstep of their beloved ones.
It is also said that in the seventeenth century, the British and French began to celebrate Valentine’s Day as the day of the union of lovers. The date was adopted a century later in the United States as the nowadays popular Valentine’s Day.
Currently, this date is very much associated with the mutual exchange of love messages in the form of symbolic objects. Modern symbols include the heart silhouette and the figure of a cupid with wings. The practice of writtenmessages began in the 19th Century and gave rise to the exchange of greeting cards produced in bulk. It is estimated that worldwide approximately one billion cards with romantic messages are sent each year, making this one of the most lucrative days of the year for business. Valentine’s Day was a festival celebrated mainly in Anglo-Saxon countries until a few decades ago. However, the habit spread to many other countries throughout the 20th Century.
In Brazil, the date is celebrated on June 12, being the eve of St Anthony’s Day. The Portuguese saint became known as matchmaker probably due to his campaigns in favour of the family, which was fought by Catharism (a Christian movement started in southern France and northern Italy in the eleventh century until the mid-fourteenth century, considered by the Catholic Church a dangerous heresy). Even with the few marriages in the Middle Ages, children produced were condemned by Catharism, as they believed that the world was impure, evil and corrupt. Its followers tried to live chaste, pure and isolated from the world, rejecting the validation of marriage.
Saint Anthonydefinitively became the matchmaker in Brazilian folklore;the favourite for single people in search of a partner, and protector of lovers. There are many prayers and sympathies, created mainly by his devotees and lovers from all over Brazil. Among the many prayers dedicated to Saint Anthony, this one stands out:
Dearfriend Saint Anthony, thou that art the protector of lovers, look at me, at my life, my aspirations. Defend me from danger;keep the failures, disappointments and deceptions away from me. Make me realistic, confident, dignified and cheerful. May I know how to walk into the future and married life with sacred vocation to form a family. May my relationship be happy and my love without measure. Let all lovers seek mutual understanding, the communion of life and growth in faith. Amen.
The date was adopted throughout the Brazilian commercial industry through an initiative by advertising executive João Doria, who brought the idea from abroad and initially presented it to traders in São Paulo. The intention was to encourage the exchange of gifts between lovers, thereby reproducing the same effect of the northern hemisphere countries’ symbolically equivalent Valentine’s Day celebrations.
Recife, 28 september 2010.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.
AZEVEDO, Thales de. Namoro à antiga: tradição e mudança. Salvador, 1975.
DIA dos namorados. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 3 set. 2010.
ENCICLOPEDIA Brasileira Mérito. São Paulo: Ed. Mérito, 1964. v.20.
SÃO Valentim VS Lupercália. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 3 set. 2010.
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Source: ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. Brazilian ‘Valentine’s Day’. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009