“Happy Valentine’s Day!” Explaining an American/European tradition.

AMIS, Atlanta Ministry to International Students, is a group I volunteer with, as Secretary and on the Communications Committee.  AMIS is a wonderful way to promote peace in our world, giving students an opportunity to become friends with Americans.  Following is an excerpt from our Q & A Column on American customs and holidays, which is published in our student newsletter, with the newest column on the website.  Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob have talked about Candy Corn at Halloween, Thanksgiving foods, and other holiday traditions. To read the full  or previous columns, or learn more about AMIS, see our website or facebook page at



Dear Uncle Bob and Aunty Louise:  Would you please explain Valentine’s Day, February 14?  I think it might be a holiday for small children and adults too, but it seems to be more important here than in my country.

Uncle Bob:  Well, you got that right!  Valentine’s Day is for kids and adults, but it’s very different for each.  There’s a lot of history, advertising and marketing.  We’ll try to touch on some of it.  Louise, why don’t you start with children…

Aunt Louise:  Valentine’s Day is not a school vacation holiday, but most children celebrate friendship and receive candy at school.  Many teachers sent home class lists, reminding the parents to have their child send valentine cards to everyone in the classroom, so no one was left out.

Uncle Bob:  But when it comes to teenagers and adults, it is more of a boyfriend/girlfriend or, as I prefer to say, sweetheart, sort of thing.

Aunt Louise:  But many of us say “Happy Valentine’s Day,” a lot, to lots of people.  Especially women, who buy 85% of the Valentine cards sold, which were first mass-produced in 1840.

Uncle Bob:  And that brings us to the possible origins of Valentine’s Day, which includes saints in the Catholic Church, named either Valentine or Valentinus, one of whom was imprisoned for defying an order to not marry soldiers (Emperor Claudius II thought single men were better soldiers).  There were two other Valentines who wrote letters from prison.  There are several other ideas of how the holiday may have started, but we really don’t know for sure.

Louise:  The oldest known written valentine is a poem by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  Cards were first mass-produced in 1840.  I don’t remember if our parents gave candy or flowers to each other like folks do now, but those certainly have become popular the last few years.  Bob usually brings me some candy, and some years we’ve planted another rosebush in the garden.  (I like that the best of all.)

Uncle Bob:  Hmm…I guess I better get my act together, and go find another rosebush.  We hope to talk with y’all again soon!

Aunt Louise:  Yes, don’t forget to write to us at Office@amis-inc.org

As Uncle Bob said, there are many theories of how Valentine’s Day started, but my favorite is the letters of love and appreciation.    Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers and followers!








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