News / USA

Valentine's Day Celebrated Worldwide

Pope Francis holds a flower thrown by a faithful as he arrives to lead a special audience with engaged couples, to celebrate Saint Valentine's day, in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, Feb. 14, 2014.
Pope Francis holds a flower thrown by a faithful as he arrives to lead a special audience with engaged couples, to celebrate Saint Valentine's day, in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, Feb. 14, 2014.
VOA News
It is known around the world as the "day of love." Valentine's Day, 2014, is officially here.

Pope Francis marked the February 14 celebration in St. Peter's Square with a question and answer session with thousands of couples engaged to be married. He told them the secret to preserving love is to "never end a single day without being at peace with each other."

Meanwhile, couples in China rushed to make their marriages official, as Friday marked both Valentine's Day and the Chinese Lantern Festival. The two celebrations fall on the same day only once every 19 years.

But Valentine's Day is not just limited to romance. Many around the world are expressing their love and affection to family and friends, too.

In the United States, the National Retail Federation expects people to spend more than $17 billion this year on candy, cards, flowers and other mementos marking the occasion.

But not everyone is celebrating. In Pakistan, Malaysia and other mainly-Muslim countries, many consider Valentine's Day to be un-Islamic and discourage the celebration of it. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, Valentine's Day is banned. Hindu extremists in India have also opposed the day.

So how did Valentine's Day start? The observance takes its name from Saint Valentine, but a precise origin is difficult to pinpoint, as more than one saint had that name. A common conclusion is that the Saint Valentine who inspired Valentine's Day was a third-century Roman priest executed for secretly marrying young couples in defiance of a marriage ban. February 14 was the date of his execution.

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