By Claudia Quesito

In Italy, Valentine’s Day is called San Valentino. As you may be able to guess, it is named after Valentino, a Christian saint and martyr who is known as the patron of lovers. Italians named Valentino or Valentina have a bonus point on February 14 and celebrate both la festa degli innamorati—if they feel like it, of course—and their onomastico—their “name day.”

According to many, however, San Valentino—or more precisely, the day after it, February 15—was originally celebrated with pagan rituals and, in 496 CE, Pope Gelasius established the Feast of Saint Valentine, moving it up to February 14, precisely to end those scandalous celebrations. Regardless of its original date, since the last century, San Valentino has transformed into the explosion of chocolate boxes, heart-shaped cards, flower bouquets, dinners, and gifts that we know today.

The celebrations are pretty much the same in the US and in Italy, with some differences: Italians don’t call their partner or the card they send to them, their “valentine,” for one thing. A great classic is, of course, proposing on this day; but even with lower expectations, flowers are a must. Please note that there are very strict rules about the number of flowers you give to your partner. As a quick reminder, the golden rule in Italy is “always an odd number, minimum seven, better eleven at least.” One the basic requirements are met, le rose rosse are the flowers of choice on this day.

There are, of course, many people who don’t celebrate San Valentino, for a variety of reasons: Some argue that l’amore si celebra ogni giorno (love needs to be celebrated every day); and San Valentino è una festa da adolescenti (Valentine Day is for teenagers only) claim some others. The most popular criticism, however, is that the commercial side of this celebration has become prevalent over anything else. Some others have shifted the meaning of the day to make it a celebration of love in general (not just romantic love), and so they have a big family dinner, or spend the night with their friends. Wherever your opinion stands, buon San Valentino!

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