Valentine’s Day, the day to show your loved one just how much they mean to you. It’s the chance to shower them with flowers, chocolates, gifts and cards. It’s also the chance for those not in a relationship to wallow in self pity and loneliness, but this piece isn’t about them. It’s about the one day of the year when those in a relationship can be as caring, or as cringey as they like to their other half.
All around the world Valentine’s Day, or days similar to it, is celebrated. Whether it differs in date or whether the gifts given are not the same, the concepts of love and friendship are celebrated. For instance, inFinlandValentine's Day is called Ystävänpäiväwhich translates into ‘Friend's Day’. It is day set aside to not only remember and care for your partner, but also the friends you hold dear to your heart. The Estonian Valentine’s Day, known as Sõbrapäev, follows suit.
The Welsh are more likely to celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen( St Dwynwen's Day) rather than the traditional English Valentine’s Day, although it’s not unheard of in the valleys of Wales for a Valentine celebration to take place. Dydd Santes Dwynwen is on January 25, and celebrates St Dwynwen the patron saint of Welsh lovers, but if you thought Dydd Santes Dwynwen was a cool name, think again. In France, Valentine’s Day is known as ‘Saint Valentin’, so once again the French have proven that their language is undoubtedly the coolest by making the name of the day sound passionate and exciting. But in a close second place comes Spain’s version of the day ‘San Valentin’.
As we move across Europe, where the same concepts and values underpin the Valentine’s celebrations, we find ourselves in Asia where things are done a bit differently...
I very much doubt that North Korea celebrates anything that remotely relates to Valentine’s Day, but South Korea do. The celebrations and rituals involve the women of South Korea giving chocolate to the men on February 14 th, and men returning the favour by giving no-chocolate candy to the women on March 14 th. This day is known as White Day and is followed by Black Day on April 14 th, where everyone who didn’t receive anything on either the 14 th of February or March eat black noodle to ‘mourn’ their single life. Complicated isn’t it. And that’s got nothing on Japan, where the amount of chocolate given symbolises the relationship and women are obliged to give chocolates to all male co-workers.
But despite studying the various ways in which Valentine’s Day is spent and celebrated around the world, my quest to find literature that can link to the theme of love always brings me back to one place, England. Whether it be Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Parlement of Foules’ from the Fifteenth, Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘A Valentine’ from the Nineteenth, or Helen Fielding’s ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ written in the Twentieth century, we lead the way when it comes to writing about love.
So although we may not have the most complex and unique ways of celebrating Valentine’s Day, us English can definitely take pride in the fact that our literature about it and love in general is certainly the best around!
Have a look at these heart-warming books to get you in the Valentine's Day mood...
Jennifer Jones Won’t Leave Me Alone by Frieda Wishinsky
She writes me love poems, full of words like adore. Then she sticks on red hearts, she bought at the store. This is a hilarious rhyming story about a little boy who is fed up with the loving attentions of the little girl who sits next to him. But when the girl in question, Jennifer Jones, goes away, our hero realises how much he misses her. Soon he’s the one buying red hearts at the store. You’ll fall in love too with this heart-warming and highly amusing story coupled with Neal Layton’s witty and quirky illustrations. This title is winner of the Sheffield Children’s Book Award 2004, the Stockport Children’s book award 2004 and the Portsmouth Children’s Book Award 2005.
The Love Bugs by Simon Puttock and Russell Ayto
A quirky Valentine’s \day comedy from Simon Puttock and Russle Ayto, both children’s book award winners. Dear ‘Red’, Your wings are so beautiful I wish you were my friend. Or EVEN my valentine? From ‘Blue’ Love is in the garden air on Valentine’s Day, but Ladybird is feeling all left out… until she opens a letter from a secret admirer. Could it really be from the handsome blue Dragonfly? Ladybird is overjoyed! And who is shy Beetle writing to? All will be revealed at a magical moonlit wedding… and you’re invited! A laugh-out-loud love story full of captivating miniature detail.
Love Monster by Rachel Bright
Featuring the only Monster in Cutesville, LOVE MONSTER is a wonderfully warm and witty look at how sometimes, when you least expect it, love finds you… from a phenomenal picture book talent. It can be touch being the only funny-looking Monster in Cutesville, but this Monster is not one to hang around and feel sorry for himself, so he’s off – out into the big wide world to look for someone to love him. He looks high, he looks low and he looks everywhere in-between, but it’s only when he’s just about to give up that he finally finds what he is looking for. Featuring an instantly charming main character who will appeal to children and adults alike, LOVE MONSTER is a warm and witty tale about the power of taking action from a terrific talent new to the Harper Collins list.
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Slowly Jack learns the pleasures of writing poetry as Miss Stretchberry encourages him to tll his own story through verse. What emerges is a loving and memorable story about a boy and his dog and his growing passion for poetry.
The Exiles in Love by Hilary McKay
The Exiles in Love by Hilary McKay
The four Conroy sisters find themselves falling prey to what Big Grandma calls the 'family failing'. Impracticably. Desperately. Unsuitably. And usually quite hopelessly!
Ruth is the hardest hit, falling for the school bus driver, the temporary English teacher and the boy who works at the butcher shop simultaneously. Naomi shares her love for the English teacher, Rachel fancies French visitor Philippe and Phoebe is occupied spying on everybody else! And as always, all four girls seem unable to avoid hilarious situations…
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Sephy is a Cross – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a nought – a ‘colourless’ member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crisses. The two have been friends since early xhildhood. But that’s as far as it can go. Against a background of prejudice, distrust and mounting terrorist violence, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum – a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger…
Forever by Judy Blume
Do you remember the first time? Still the bravest, freshest, fruitiest and most honest account of first love, first sex and first heartbreak ever written for teens. It was a book ahead of its time – and remains, after thirty years in prints, a teenage bestseller.
Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
By award-winning author Jerry Spinelli, the story of Stargirl continues… in the form of letters to Leo, written over the course of a year. This moving and lyrical book charts Stargirl’s feelings as she comes to terms with the loss of Leo and starts to make new friends.