Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14 each year, began as a Christian holiday honoring one, or possibly two, early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine. One was Valentine of Rome, a priest martyred in 269, and the other, Valentine of Terni, a bishop martyred in 273. In 496, Pope Gelasius instituted Saint Valentine’s Day in honor of Valentine of Rome, who, according to legend has it, he restored his jailer’s daughter’s sight and sent her a letter signed “Your Valentine” before he was executed. He apparently also secretly married Roman soldiers.
The association with romance and love, chocolates, cards and red roses came much later. It started in the 14th and 15th centuries in England, apparently from folklore associated with spring lovebirds. There are many other legends and tales related to Valentine’s Day and its association with love and romance, including ancient Rome and the celebration of Lupercalia from February 13 to 15, promoting health and fertility.
Another early association with love is the Charter of the Court of Love, established by King Charles VI of France in 1400. Here the ladies of the court were called upon to settle love disputes.
The custom of sending Valentine’s Day cards originated in the UK and in 1797 a book was even published with sentimental verses, titled The Young Man’s Valentine’s Writer for those who didn’t have much of an imagination or the gift of poetry themselves. Valentine’s Day cards were very popular and even adorned with lace and romantic designs or accompanied by gifts of bouquets of red roses.
In 1868, the British chocolate company Cadbury designed boxes called “Fancy Boxes”, boxes filled with chocolate in the shape of a heart.
Valentine’s Day and the cards, gifts and flowers associated with it are a major source of economic activity in many countries around the world, but not all. Here is an overview of the countries where the celebration of Valentine’s Day is prohibited and why. The reasons range from religious, due to Christian background, to moral and culture clash.
1. Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is located in Southwest Asia and spans most of the Arabian Peninsula. It is a Muslim country. Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, is located in the Sirat Mountains in western Saudi Arabia. The capital is Riyadh.
Foreign Christian workers, essential to Saudi Arabia’s thriving economy, are allowed to enter the country, but not to practice their religion. Any celebration of Valentine’s Day or the sale of items related to the holiday, such as red roses, are prohibited. Officials from the Commission for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, better known as the Religious Police, virtually prowl the streets on Valentine’s Day, going from store to store and confiscating everything they deem it related to Valentine’s Day, arresting and punishing everyone who breaks the law. This applies to locals and foreigners.
Uzbekistan is a large landlocked country in Central Asia that gained independence in 1991 with the fall of the former Soviet Union. The capital is Tashkent. It is well known for its many museums, including the State Museum of the Timurids, its mosques and its bustling Chorsu Bazaar. Other highlights of Uzbekistan are the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara and the Aral Sea.
Uzbekistan is a secular country, but the dominant religion is Islam. Known for its diverse culture and long history, especially its connection to the Silk Road, Uzbekistan has tolerated the celebration of Valentine’s Day for many years. However, this has changed since 2012. The government takes a dim view of the influence of foreign culture and entertainment, and the Department of Enlightenment and Values Promotion of the Ministry of Education issued an internal decree prohibiting the celebration of holidays “foreign to our culture.”
Instead, they promote the celebration and recitals of their national hero, Babur, a Mughal emperor and descendant of Genghis Khan whose birthday falls on February 14. The opinion of the population on this subject is divided. Valentine’s Day celebrations are not illegal but they are definitely discouraged in favor of the commemoration of Babur.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, as it is officially called, is a vast country in the Middle East, bordered by the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf as well as several countries such as Turkey, Pakistan and Iraq, among others. . Iran also features lush planes and the huge Kavir Desert in the east. The capital is Tehran. The climate is as varied as the landscape.
As its official name suggests, Iran is an Islamic country, ruled by clerics.
In 2011, the government banned the production of all Valentine’s Day-related goods and gifts and any promotion of a day celebrating romantic love as it considers it a spread of Western culture. Unmarried couples are prohibited from mingling.
Instead, it has been suggested that Valentine’s Day be replaced with an older holiday called Mehrgan that existed in Iran before the introduction of Islam. More can mean friendship, love or affection.
Indonesia is located between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and it is the largest island country in the world comprising 17,508 islands, many of which are uninhabited. The capital is Jakarta and the best known islands are Java, Sumatra, Bali and Borneo. The population is predominantly Muslim but it is a secular country.
Indonesia’s relationship with Valentine’s Day is ambiguous. There is no law outright banning the celebration of the day, but in some pockets of the country with more radical Muslim views, small-scale bans and intimidation tactics are used, such as in Surabaya, Makassar , and an outright ban in Bando Aceh. This controversy stems from a decision by the highest Islamic Council in 2012 where it was declared that Valentine’s Day was contrary to Muslim culture and teaching.
Despite all this, Valentine’s Day remains popular with young people and is celebrated openly in Jakarta.
Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia, divided by the South China Sea into two regions. The constitution grants freedom of religion, but it is a multiethnic and multicultural country, with a population of around 60% Muslim. The capital is Kuala Lumpur.
Since 2005, the celebration of Valentine’s Day has been prohibited. Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development blames the party for everything from abortion to alcohol and considers it a nexus of negative evils that can invite disaster and moral decay among young people. There’s even an annual campaign against Valentine’s Day to reinforce the point. Anyone who goes out and parties does so at their own risk, including arrests.
Officially named “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, it is a country in South Asia, with a long coastline along the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and bordering countries of China, India , Iran and Afghanistan. It is divided into three main geographical areas: the Northern Highlands, the Indus Plain and the Balochistan Plateau. The northern highlands are home to some of the highest mountain peaks in the world, such as K2 and Nanga Parbat. The capital is Islamabad.
Pakistan has the second largest Muslim population in the world, which, like other countries we’ve told you about here, influences attitudes towards Valentine’s Day, especially in recent years.
As the popularity of Valentine’s Day grew, mainly among the younger population, ultra-religious parties launched anti-Valentine’s Day rallies, and finally, a private citizen by the name of Abdul Waheed, filed a petition with Islamabad High Court to ban the day. on the grounds that it is a Western cultural import that went against the teachings of Islam. In 2017, the court granted the petition and banned not only any celebration of Valentine’s Day, but also any media coverage or mention.
Not everyone in Pakistan agrees with the decision, for example, flower vendors who did good business on Valentine’s Day as well as university students.
Be sure to check out our recent Valentine’s Day coverage: