February 14 has long been celebrated as a day of love. It is that special day when people exchange gifts, chocolates, cards filled with loving wishes. To most of the modern Western culture, it is a harmless holiday. However, in other parts of the world, it is seen as inappropriate. Some Eastern countries have begun to ban any form of its celebration, and some are even punishing those who participate.

Iran, for example, has announced that it’s banning Valentine’s Day because it promotes Western culture. Since Iran is run as a strictly Islamic country, it frowns on many Western traditions. The government moved to prevent couples from get together for a romantic gathering or gift exchange that would promote “Western culture through Valentine’s Day rituals.” In fact, officials told coffee and ice cream shops in Tehran, the capital city, that store owners could be fined or found guilty of a crime if they allow any type of Valentine’s celebration on their property.

That doesn’t mean everyone obeys the government’s wishes. According to the BBC, Valentine’s day has become a big event in Iran, especially among young people. Even though the government has banned Valentine’s gifts and cards, threatening to fine anyone found with them, it is still popular to celebrate.


Indonesian students protest Valentine’s Day (Photo by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Indonesia is also fighting against the holiday. They argue that observing it is against the Islamic teachings. The Muslim province of Aceh, in Banda Aceh, had thousands of high school students holding rallies to rebuff the Valentine’s holiday. It’s mayor, Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, joined the rallies and said, “The Valentine’s Day celebration has become a culture” and that it was not part of the Islamic culture. Junior high school students also held rallies against the holiday in Surabaya, which is Indonesia’s second-largest city.

The Indonesian Council of Clerics has warned that Valentine’s Day celebrations originate from a different belief and that those who choose to celebrate it would be promoting faiths other than Islam.

The Legends of St. Valentine

So who was Saint Valentine and why is he causing such a fuss? No one is certain, as there are at least three different saints recognized by the Catholic Church with the name Valentine or Valentinus, and all of them were martyred. One theory is that the legends are not about three separate individuals, but a combination of stories regarding one person.

Legend one: Valentine was a priest in Rome in the third century. The emperor, Claudius II, outlawed marriage for younger men because he felt that when they were single they made better soldiers. The priest disagreed with the decree and married young couples in secret. However, the emperor discovered his actions and had him put to death.

Legend two: Very similar to the first except that this Valentine is from Terni, Italy. He was also beheaded by the emperor for marrying young couples in love.

Legend three: Valentine, also a priest, helped Christians escape Roman prisons and was killed for his aid. He supposedly fell in love with a girl who is thought to be the daughter of his jailer and who visited him while he was imprisoned. Before dying, he wrote a letter to his love, signing it “From your Valentine.” This Valentine was sentenced to death and died on February 14 in the year 273.

Today, we think of the holiday as just a fun and romantic time of the year to show someone they are loved. At least in Western culture. But for Muslims and those who practice the Islamic faith, the seemingly innocent holiday is seen in a less cheerful way.