February 14, 2024 | Време читања: 4 минута

February is the month of both love and wine

February is the month of both love and wine

Today, we are talking about the Day of Love and Wine. The Serbian language courses, whether for foreigners or heritage speakers, are focused on preserving tradition and showcasing the diversity and specificity of our cultural space. Without intending to impose any principles of ecumenism, it is important to emphasize that February 14 somehow unites Christians. Orthodox believers dedicate this day to Saint Trifun, while Catholics associate it with Saint Valentine. However, neither group is immune to the influence of the other.

The Balkans represent an exceptional fusion of various traditions, and February is a special period for our foreign students, as well as for visitors to Serbia and the Balkans. This time of the year unveils the synesthesia of different cultural influences, making the Balkans a unique region in the world.

Saint Tryphon and Saint Valentine

Saint Tryphon was born in the village of Kampsadi in Phrygia, into a humble family, where he exhibited exceptional piety from his earliest childhood. As a boy, he spent his time tending to geese, and from God, he received the “gift of miracles and healing.” Throughout his life, he healed many patients, saved people from demonic obsessions, and selflessly assisted those who sought his help.

His fame grew when he cured Gordiana, the daughter of the Roman Emperor Gordian, of a mental illness, for which he was rewarded by the emperor. Saint Tryphon shared his wealth with the poor and remained dedicated to caring for geese. Unfortunately, during the rule of Emperor Decius, a persecutor of Christians, he was executed for not renouncing his faith. He was buried in his hometown.

Today, Saint Tryphon is celebrated by guilds, vine growers, and innkeepers, believing that he is the guardian of plants. It is believed that on February 14, nature begins to awaken from its winter slumber, bringing about the awakening of love among people.

Saint Valentine, the counterpart to Saint Tryphon, was a bishop and martyr from the 3rd century. He was executed by beheading in 269 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Emperor Julius I erected a basilica over his tomb in the 4th century, and in the 15th century, Saint Valentine became associated with Valentine’s Day. Although the Catholic Church celebrated February 14 as Saint Valentine’s Day until 1969, that date was removed from the Catholic calendar in an effort to reduce the number of saints’ days without historical facts connecting a specific day to a saint’s life.

Nevertheless, the celebration of Valentine’s Day has become popular among both Orthodox and Catholic believers, often linked to the development of consumer society during the transitional period in our country. It is believed that on this day, at least ten million products symbolizing love are sold worldwide, such as cards, flowers, perfumes, and other gifts.

How to Declare Love and Say “I Love You” in Different Languages?

Saying “I love you!” in a foreign language is not always as simple as translating the phrase and practicing pronunciation. In many languages, culture plays a huge role in how to apply what you’ve learned from the grammar of a language, especially when dealing with the complex topic of love.

In the Serbian language, we use the verb “voleti” to express our affection for various things. I can say “volim” my new mobile phone or the latest movie hit, just as I can say “volim” my wife, sons, and daughter. Although the verb used here is the same, native Serbian speakers can discern that the love I have for my new phone or a movie is incomparable to the love I have for the woman with whom I have built a family. We might use the same verb for “love” in Serbian, but we can also express a different intensity and type of “love” or “liking” by playing with the grammar and lexicon of the Serbian language. For instance, I can say: “Sviđa mi se moj novi telefon. Oduševljen sam novim filmom.” As is often the case with our language, what works in Serbian doesn’t necessarily translate literally into other languages.

Similar considerations apply to Spanish. In this language, there are two main ways to express love. There’s “te amo,” where we use the verb “amar,” meaning “to love,” and there’s “te quiero,” which uses the verb “querer,” which can be translated as “to want.” Although “te quiero” can be used in a broader context, with partners, friends, and family, “te amo” represents a deeper, more intense, often romantic love. This verb can be used to express feelings between spouses or towards family. If you’re sending an SMS or writing a Valentine’s Day card to a loved one from a Spanish-speaking region, you can use the abbreviation “tqm,” meaning “te quiero mucho.”

In the Japanese language, a native speaker uses the expression 好き (suki) in a way similar to how we use the verb “volim” in the Serbian language—to describe a favorite meal, partner, or musical group. However, 恋 (koi) is used, for example, to describe romantic relationships among people or even in expressing self-love, where we might use the word 愛 (ai). This same word 愛 (ai) can also be used to describe love towards others, friends, or family.

Similarly, in Mandarin Chinese, we must be cautious when using the phrase 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) or “I love you” and might opt for a milder expression like 我喜欢你 (wǒ xǐhuan nǐ), which can be translated as “I like you.” Younger generations in China today tend to use the phrase 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) more, which diminishes the fatalistic connotation of the original lexical meaning of the verb “to love.” This is an excellent example of how language usage changes over time!

In China, tradition used to dictate that loved ones give red envelopes with money. This tradition is expressed with the lexeme 紅包 (hóngbāo). However, the modern era has changed both language and tradition, so today, the younger generation sends digital versions of red envelopes to their loved ones. The amount of money sent digitally is usually 520 yuan because this number, when pronounced, sounds similar to the phrase “I love you” in Mandarin.

In Russia, parents may not say “I love you” as often as parents in Serbia, but they express their love, devotion, and tenderness towards their children by adding a diminutive ending to their names. For example, Anna could be called Anya by friends, but she might be called Annechka by her mother and father. This cute diminutive “чка” is often used for small children. In comparison, parents in Serbia might use the diminutive ending “ица,” so Sava, for instance, could become Savyca (Савица), and Luka – Lukyca (Лукица).

Married partners in Korea won’t use each other’s personal names; instead, they will use the lexeme 여보 (yeobo), which is similar to the Serbian expressions “dear” or “darling.” Modern times have also introduced the use of emojis as a contemporary form of symbolic writing, and on all languages, it might be enough to simply type a ❤, which can imply various meanings of love, “Thinking of you,” or “I miss you.” Today, for young people, this is exactly what suffices in modern communication.

“I love you” in different world languages

Serbian (српски језик) Волим Те!
Arabic (арапски) أحبك
Chinese (кинески) 我爱你
Finnish (фински) Minä rakastan sinua
French (француски) Je t’aime
German (немачки) Ich liebe dich
Greek (грчки) Σ’αγαπώ
Hungarian (мађарски) Szeretlek
Japanese (јапански)
Korean (корејски) 사랑해
Polish (пољски) Kocham cię
Portuguese (португалски) Eu te amo
Russian (руски) Я люблю тебя
Spanish (шпански) Te amo
Turkish (турски) Seni seviyorum
Yiddish (јидиш) איך האָב דיך ליב


We invite all readers of our blog to join us at the Academic Knowledge Center in considering these linguistic and cultural challenges worldwide! We would like to hear how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in your societies and what holidays are characteristic of your society. We also remind you of our courses in Serbian as a foreign and heritage language that we organize. If you are interested in learning or improving your language skills, join us and sign up via the following link. We can’t wait to meet you and share our linguistic and cultural experience with you! The first lesson is free!


Author: Marko Radulović, Professor of Literature and Serbian Language