Reading Comprehension. Valentine’s day around the world.

About this Exercise.

  • Exercise Type: English Reading Comprehension
  • Question Types: Single answer multiple choice. Multiple matching
  • Level: B2+
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Objective: Learn about vocabulary related to Valentine’s Day traditions.
  • Instructions: Read the article and answer the questions below.
  • contains affiliate links to courses and products that we endorse. We receive commission when you make use of these links.

What is Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is a holiday celebrated annually on February 14th. It is a day to express love, typically by giving cards, flowers, and gifts. Valentines Day is also known as Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine,

What are the Origins of Valentine’s Day?

The origins of Valentine’s Day are not completely clear and may have roots in both ancient Roman and Christian traditions. One popular theory is that it evolved from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was a festival that celebrated the god of fertility, Faunus. At the start of Lupercalia, young men would pick the names of women from a jar. The woman whose name they picked would then be their partner for the duration of the festival. The couples would then take part in various rituals and activities to promote fertility and good fortune.

Another theory is that Valentine’s Day originated as a Christian holiday honouring Saint Valentine. St. Valentine was a martyr who was imprisoned and executed for officiating marriages in ancient Rome. The Emperor had banned marriage as he believed that unmarried soldiers fought better than married ones. According to legend, Saint Valentine performed the marriages in secret so that couples wouldn’t be persecuted. He eventually became a symbol of love and devotion.

The symbols of Valentine’s Day

The most obvious icon of Valentine’s day is the love heart. This shape has represented love since the end of the middle ages and came from religious symbols like the sacred heart. Now it can be seen all over the place, especially on February 14th!

Cupid is also a common sight on Valentine’s Day. Cupid appears to be a chubby baby with wings, also known as a cherub, who carries a bow and arrow. Being hit with an arrow from Cupid’s bow represents the act of falling in love. However, Cupid was not always represented as an infant. The ancient Greek god Eros, the son of Aphrodite the goddess of love, was depicted as a young man, but subsequent Roman revisions and reinterpretations saw him reduced to a baby and his name changed to Cupid.

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How do people celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Regardless of its exact origins, Valentine’s Day has become a popular holiday celebrated in many countries around the world. In most English-speaking countries, it’s a day when couples show their love for one another through romantic gestures. Common examples of these gestures are sending cards, giving flowers, and exchanging romantic gifts. Sometimes people send anonymous cards or gifts to their “crush”. It is also a popular day for couples to go out on dates, propose or even get married.

As well as these quite universal traditional celebrations, Valentine’s Day is also marked by a number of cultural events and traditions around the world. For example, in France, Valentine’s Day is known as “La Saint-Valentin” and is celebrated with romantic dinners and the exchange of gifts such as chocolates and flowers. In Brazil, it is traditional for couples to exchange elaborate and romantic love letters or billet doux as well as typical gifts like flowers and chocolates.

Unique Traditions

In Slovenia, lovers don’t celebrate in the name of St. Valentine, but instead that of St. Gregory, or Pope St. Gregory. Tradition says that women can find out about their future love by consulting the first bird that they see when the first signs of spring appear. However, quite how this is communicated isn’t clear!

In Japan and Korea, Valentine’s Day is a holiday primarily for women to express their love and affection to the men in their lives. It is common for women to give gifts such as chocolates, flowers, and other small gifts to their male partners, friends, and colleagues. A month later, on March 14th, known as “White Day,” it is typical for men to return the favor by giving gifts to the women in their lives. However, in April, Koreans observe “Black Day” when singles join up with other single friends to eat black noodles.

In France, a so-called “Love Lottery” meant that single men and women could call to each other from different sides of a street to match up. If they weren’t satisfied with their partner, they could just leave them and call to another. Women who were left unchosen would light bonfires to burn photos of the men that they were rejected by. This custom, however, has been discontinued since it was banned by the government.

In the Philippines, the government plays cupid and does its part to help couples get married. The government holds Mass weddings on Valentines Day. Hundreds of couples are married at the same time in these enormous ceremonies. This custom is ideal for poor or mean romantics, as the government pays for everything, from clothes to the ring!

Say it with Food

Although chocolate is the stereotypical food of love nowadays, some cultures use different types of food to express their love.

Kurds in Iraq decorate red apples to give to their romantic interests. They believe that the gift of the decorated apples will bring love and fortune. Ideally, the apple will be as big as possible, to represent the intensity of the giver’s love. It is then decorated by pushing cloves into it until it is completely covered. The apple then dries out and will keep its shape for more than a century. Even decades later, if the dried apple is sprayed with water it will create a sweet scent which will stir memories of when their love was fresh.

Germans like to say it with gingerbread. Men can buy enormous gingerbread hearts called Lebkuchen (sweet or favourite bread) for their would-be partners. There are stalls dedicated to selling these elaborate and enormous tokens of love. The gingerbread has a ribbon threaded through it so that the recipient can wear it around their neck to proudly display their gift. Apparently, this tradition started in the 1300s, when German monks invented this type of cookie.

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Perhaps surprisingly, some cultures consider spoons to be an important way of showing their love.

In the Czech Republic, for example, it is a popular tradition for young men to give their female friends and loved ones hand-painted wooden spoons as a symbol of their affection. The spoons carry love messages and appropriately romantic decorations such as hearts and flowers.

Spoons are also part of a Welsh love tradition. Welsh men traditionally give the women that they are interested in spoons. Rather than being painted, these spoons are carved from wood, often with a great amount of detail. According to the tradition, the detailed carvings on the spoons represent different aspects of their possible life together, such as how many children they will have! This isn’t technically a valentine’s Day tradition though, as the Welsh celebrate on the 25th of January, a few weeks before the 14th of February.

Just Good Friends

In Finland, Valentine’s Day is known as “Friend’s Day,” and is a time for people to celebrate their close friendships as well as romantic relationships. People give cards to lovers, but also to colleagues, neighbours, family and friends. In fact, Fins give so many cards on this day that the only time of the year that more cards are bought and given is Christmas!

Overall, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that is celebrated in many different ways around the world. Whether it is through the exchange of cards and gifts, romantic dinners and dates, or the celebration of close friendships, it is a day for people to show their love and to take the initiative to let someone special know how they feel.

Did you understand all that? Check your comprehension with the questions below! How is Valentine’s Day celebrated in your culture? How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day? Do you have any questions about this article? Or perhaps you’ve found a mistake! Let us know in the comments section below.

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