As we head into February, stores will start going into full on Valentines mode with shelves brimming with heart shaped chocolate boxes, pink stuffed animals, and cheesy cards. Valentines Day is one of those holidays that you either love or hate, which mostly depends on if you’re single or not. Celebrated mainly in North America, this holiday started in the year 496 and is derived from an ancient Roman celebration originally to commemorate the beginning of Spring. Over the years, the church decided to turn the festival into a Christian holiday created to commemorate St Valentine, the saint of love. Nowadays, gift giving and romantic dinners are synonym with the holiday of love but in different parts of the world, they like to do things a bit differently. With Valentines Day right around the corner, we’ll be discovering 15 different countries around the world who celebrate the holiday in their own unique way.
While Valentines Day is typically celebrated on the 14th of February, in South Korea there are three different days from February through to April that are dedicated to celebrating the holiday of love. In countries such as Canada and the United States, it is quite common for the men to be gifting their girlfriends or wives special gifts, but in South Korea the young and in love couples tend to gift each other equal amounts of gifts over the span of three months. The three days that are dedicated to the holiday are the 14th of February, 14th of March and lastly, April 14th. First up to give their gifts are the women, often spoiling their significant other with candies, flowers, and chocolates. Next up, on the 14th of March a day known as ‘white day’, it is the man’s turn to return the favor, showering their lovers with flowers and chocolates as well. Lastly, not ones to exclude anyone, the 14th of April is reserved exclusively for those who find themselves without a special someone in their life to celebrate with. This day is dedicated to mourn their single status as well as to indulge in a traditional dish of black pasta made with black bean noodles in celebration of the appropriately named ‘black day’.
Rather than celebrate Saint Valentine, the Welsh prefer instead to honor the Welsh patron Saint of Lovers, on the 25th of January. While typically you could expect to receive things such as chocolates and flowers or stuffed animals and jewelry on Valentines Day, in Wales the preferred choice of gifts are wooden spoons. As strange as that may seem, it is tradition in Wales for men to carve intricate designs into the spoons and then gift them to their lovers, a tradition that has been practiced since the 17th century. The patterns carved into these spoons aren’t random either with mostly everything having a special meaning such as keys symbolizing the keys to a man’s heart, wheels for support, and horseshoes for good luck. Most popular as a Valentines gift, these spoons are also regularly gifted for special occasions such as births, weddings, and anniversaries.
Valentines Day has only just begun to get popular in this European country but involves all of your typical Valentines things such as romantic dinners, red hearts, and roses. Even though this holiday has started to pick up in the Czech Republic, the real celebration of love is on the 1st of May. On this day, lovers make their way down to the cherry blossom trees to gather underneath of them and kiss. This popular tradition is believed to bring the couples health, happiness, and good luck in the coming year.
While nowadays, in the 21st century, China celebrates a much more Westernized version of Valentines Day, with the cards and the chocolates, there has been a different day devoted to romance that has been happening for centuries now. This day, often referred to as ‘Chinese Valentines Day’ falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar which tends to fall in the month of August. Known as the ‘Qixi festival’ or the ‘night of sevens’, the traditions surrounding this day of romance, stem from an old Chinese tale which tells the story of two lovers who were forced to be apart due to their social status but were allowed to see each other one day a year, on the day of the Qixi festival. Today during this festival, Chinese girls will typically pray to find a good husband and will also offer Zhinu, the goddess of relationships and love, some fruit and carved melons. Those fortunate enough to have already found their significant other, will normally use this day to pray for prosperity for the future.
France, home to the city of love, is a place where most couples flock to to celebrate Valentines day and is one of the most romantic countries in the world. Up until 2015, when the activities were banned due to structural issues with the bridge, couples visiting Paris could cement their love with a lock that would bear the names of the happy couple that would then be put onto the ‘bridge of love’. Though Paris may be formally known as the ‘city of love’ there is another village in France that is the epicenter of romance around Valentines day. Known as St-Valentin or ‘the village of love’, with a name like that this village goes all out in celebration of the holiday of love. Between the 12th and the 14th of February, expect to find houses in the village decked out in roses and balloons as well as trees covered from top to bottom in love notes. This time of year in the village, there are also tons of marriage proposals and also the chance to plant your very own lovers’ tree.
While in North America, Valentines day is celebrated by people of all ages from kindergartners to elders, in Germany the holiday is reserved strictly for adults. Typical gifts given during this time of year include your regulars such as flowers and heart shaped chocolate boxes as well as anything and everything shaped like a pig. Though this could be seen as an insult to some, pigs are actually a symbol of lust and luck in Germany with couples gifting each other items such as pictures, figurines, and chocolates shaped like the sacred animal. Another common thing to do around this time of year in Germany, is to indulge in ginger cookies. These cookies are normally heart shaped and are decorated with romantic messages written in icing.
Though Valentines day is still a relatively new thing in Denmark with the first real celebration happening in the early 1990’s, the country have fully embraced the holiday yet have added their own unique twist to it. While the typical things associated with Valentines day such as flowers and chocolates are given as gifts, men will also gift women something called ‘gaekkebrev’ or a ‘joking letter’. These unique letters are written on intricately cut paper and consist of a funny rhyme or poem written on the inside. This letter is then signed anonymously by the sender using only a dot for each letter in their name. If the woman receiving said letter can guess who the sender is then she will receive an Easter egg at the next Easter celebration, but if she can’t figure it out then she must gift the man one. This tradition is also popular in Norway.
Originally started as part of a marketing campaign yet quickly embraced by the nation known for being passionate, ‘sweetness week’ is Argentina’s main celebration dedicated to the holiday of love. Even though the Western version of Valentines day is still celebrated on the 14th of February, sweetness week is on a whole other level. An entire week in July is set aside for this celebration and involves exchanging kisses for sweet treats. Closing off this week of festivities is Friendship day, a day dedicated to showing the friends in your life how much you love and appreciate them.
As we all know, weddings can be quite pricey, with the average wedding costing in the tens of thousands of dollars. In the Philippines though, they seem to have found a way to solve this problem. Often sponsored by the Filipino government to help those less fortunate, February 14th is not only Valentines day but also the wedding day of many couples. Every year on this day, hundreds and sometimes thousands of couples will gather together in public to all get married at the same time, giving the opportunity for couples who would like to be married but who couldn’t afford it, the chance at a happy and long marriage.
If a massive celebration is what you’re expecting from Brazilians for Valentines day, then you’re going to be slightly disappointed. Since Carnival, one of the world’s largest celebrations, tends to occur sometime in February or March, Brazilians tend to skip out on Valentines to put all of their time and attention towards Carnival instead. Instead, they opt for the 12th of June as their day to celebrate love and relationships. This day is known as the day of lovers or ‘dia dos namorados’ where it is typical for Brazilians to give flowers and cards as gifts. It is also common for musical performances to be held in various cities around Brazil, which helps bring together couples from all walks of life. Not ones to ever do things on a small scale, there are also festivities that continue on into the next day for Saint Anthony’s Day, which commemorates the Saint of marriage. For this holiday, single people will perform different rituals in the hopes of attracting a potential wife or husband.
Much like many parts of the world, South Africa also chooses to celebrate Valentines day on the 14th with the typical flowers and romantic candlelight dinners. They also like to add their own twist to the Western holiday by taking the phrase ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ quite literally. This tradition has stemmed from the ancient Roman festival of ‘lupercalia’ and sees young women pinning hearts onto the sleeves of their shirts, bearing the name of their crush. This is a much tamer version of the tradition, where it was once common for men to sacrifice goats and then run through the streets wearing the skins and whipping different women along the way as a way to bless them with fertility.
Flowers are quite the popular choice of gift when it comes to Valentines day and for good reason, they not only look great but they also smell amazing. From roses to carnations to brightly colored tulips, virtually every store imaginable starts pushing out lush bouquets of flowers around this time of year in preparation for the upcoming holiday. In Taiwan however, flowers are not only popular they are the main focus of the holiday with different colors and amounts signifying different things. Representing an ‘only love’ are red roses with 99 of them expressing a ‘forever love’ and the big one that all Taiwanese women hope to receive on Valentines is 108 roses which represents a marriage proposal.
Celebrated more than Easter or Christmas, Valentines day is a huge deal in the African nation. As popular and widespread as the holiday is nowadays, this wasn’t always the case. As early as the late 90’s to the early 2000’s, Valentines Day was unheard of in Ghana and didn’t start to pick up until the youth became more aware of what was happening in more Westernized countries. A typical Valentines Day in Ghana resembles the same kind of celebrations as in Europe with the red hearts and gift buying and when night falls on the day of love, the younger generation head out to parties and discos to dance the night away with the opposite sex. Another important feature about Valentines in Ghana is the chocolate. While in virtually every country that celebrates Valentines, chocolate is a common choice of gift, in Ghana it’s a way of life. In 2007, the government recognized the commercial value of the sweet treat and in order to bring more tourism to the largest cocoa producing country in the world, declared the 14th of February, National Chocolate Day. Exhibits and seminars about cocoa production are available throughout the country as well as special chocolate themed menus in restaurants to celebrate not only the most loving day of the year but also the sweetest.
Celebrated on the 24th of February and known as ‘dragobete’ or the ‘day the birds betrothed’, this special day is not only a celebration of love and couples but also of the upcoming spring. In Romanian villages, it was common for young men and women to go into the meadows and forests to retrieve wildflowers which were then used by the young girls to make love potions. Another common practice for Romanians during ‘dragobete’ is to wash their faces in the snow outside which is believed to bring not only happiness but also health.
Italy, home to star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, is one of the most romantic destinations in the world. When Valentines Day was first picking up, Italians celebrated the holiday with the Spring festival where young couples would gather in outdoor gardens to enjoy loved up strolls, live music, and poetry readings. Another tradition surrounding the holiday of love, involved young and unmarried girls waking up before dawn on Valentines Day in the hopes of spotting their future husband. It was believed that the first man that a woman would lay her eyes on, would be the man she would marry or at least closely resemble him.