THE FIRST RECORDS OF VALENTINE'S DAY CAME TO SLOVAKIA WITH TRANSLATIONS OF HAMLET
The secular Valentine's Day, associated with saint Valentine, is today known mainly as a celebration of love. It originated at the end of the 14th century in the English royal court and spread to other Western European countries. It turned into a modern commercial holiday during the 19th century in the USA. In Europe, especially in its western part, it spread the most after the Second World War. The inhabitants of Slovakia obtained knowledge about it thanks to translations of Shakespeare, while the teaching of English also helped its gradual spread.
The first isolated data on the existence of Valentine's Day as a Western European holiday appeared in the territory of Slovakia in the 1870s. Initially, they were brought by translations of William Shakespeare's works (e.g. the tragedy Hamlet) containing references to Valentine's customs. From the middle of the 19th century there were also newspaper articles about it.
"In the 20th century, the source of information about Valentine's Day in Slovakia was also the teaching of the English language, which included facts about the way of life and culture of the inhabitants of Great Britain and the USA," adds Juraj Zajonc from the Institute of Ethnology and Social Anthropology SAS, who has been researching this holiday in Europe and Slovakia since 2011. "According to a representative survey from 2019, almost 3.5 per cent of respondents over the age of 40 celebrated St. Valentine's Day even before 1989," he clarifies.
The massive migration of Valentine's Day into the countries of the former socialist bloc began in the last decade of the 20th century after the fall of their communist regimes. Valentine's Day began to enter the holiday calendar of Slovaks intensively in the early 1990s.
"In Slovakia, it spread mainly as a holiday of romantic love of people in love, partner love of lovers, people engaged and married. Even then, it was a celebration of parental and family love, as well as a holiday of commemoration, strengthening of positive interpersonal relationships between friends or colleagues at work," explains the ethnologist.
Gradually, the content of St. Valentine's Day also included charitable love, love to God expressed by respecting the Christian principles of life in a partner relationship, man's love for animals, the city and nature. The inhabitants of Slovakia accepted Valentine's Day as one of their holidays also because it allows them to express their opinions about society, and promote their interests and the lifestyle that suits them. The Covid-19 pandemic gave this holiday a certain degree of importance.
"This difficult period confirmed that Valentine's Day is an important occasion that creates a sense of belonging in people and offers them a wide range of ways to remember and realize the significant and specific value of interpersonal relationships," concludes J. Zajonc.
Edited by Katarína Gáliková