Like many holidays across the globe, Valentine’s Day–while considered a highly commercial celebration– is also deeply rooted in a country’s belief and customs. Here’s how people around the world celebrate the day of love with 14 of the most unique, popular, and romantic traditions.
The Danes adapted the Valentine’s Day holiday only in the early 1990’s, and the celebration is closely tied to Easter. Men write anonymous poems or letters called gaekkbrev, signed only with dots. If a woman correctly guesses who wrote the letter, she receives an egg for Easter. If she gets it wrong, she gives the guy an Easter egg instead.
Couples in Korea celebrate love in a series of celebrations that spills over to the month of April. On February 14, it’s the women who actually gift the men with flowers. The men then return the gesture on March 14, known as White Day. On the other hand, April 14 is known as Black Day, when those who are still single “mourn” their status by eating black bean-paste noodles called jajangmyeon.
Instead of the flowers or candies, the Welsh give their significant others wooden spoons as a sign of love. Intricate patterns and symbols are carved into the spoons, a practice dating back to the early 17th century. The Welsh also recognize Saint Dwynwen – not Saint Valentine – as their patron saint of lovers and celebrate him on January 25th.
In their search for true love, the women in England place five bay leaves under their pillows on the eve of Valentine’s Day in the hopes of dreaming of their future husbands. In some parts of the country, children wait for Jack Valentine to leave them candies and gifts, just like Santa does on Christmas.
Women in South Africa literally wear their hearts on their sleeves on February 14th in an ancient Roman tradition known as the Lupercalia. The girls pin the names of their love interest on their shirtsleeves, and let the men know who their secret admirers are.
February 14 is also known as Winemakers Day in Bulgaria. Couples toast to their love with some of the best and most delicious wine in the country.
One of the world’s largest producers of cocoa, Ghana also celebrates National Chocolate Day on the 14th of February. Everything chocolate-themed such as special menus and exhibits can be found all over the country.
Following an ancient tale of star-crossed lovers, the Chinese celebrate the festival of love known as Qixi on the seventh day of the seventh month on the Chinese calendar. Young girls offer carved fruit and pray to the goddess of love Zhinu, in the hopes of finding good husbands.
The passionate people of Argentina celebrate love not just on February, but also in July. For an entire week starting July 13th, friends and lovers exchange candies and kisses. and the celebration culminates on July 20th for Dia del Amigo or Friendship Day.
Aside from chocolates and flowers, a prominent symbol during Valentine’s Day in Germany is the pig. A symbol of luck and passion, the pig figures in most gifts such as photos, miniatures, candies, and chocolates.
The kind of chocolate given to a Japanese man on Valentine’s Day indicates whether a relationship is romantic or completely platonic. Girls give their males friends and colleagues the obligatory giri choco, while the honmei choco is given to show deeper affection and true love. The men return the gesture a month after on “White Day,” similar to the Koreans.
The number and colors of flowers represent special messages according to Taiwanese tradition. Red roses indicate your only love, 99 roses mean eternal love, and 108 of these blossoms signify a wedding proposal.
Italians exchange hazelnut-filled chocolates called Baci Perugina (“baci” means “kisses”) together with a romantic verse written in 4 different languages. An old tradition also says that the first man a girl sees on Valentine’s Day will be her husband and they will be married within the year.
Contrary to popular belief, early Valentine’s Day celebrations in France were not as romantic as they are today. An old tradition is the loterie d’amour, or “lottery of love”. Single men and women gathered in houses facing each other and called out the name of their chosen partner through the windows. Men who were unhappy with their match can leave the girl and choose another. The women who were not chosen naturally got upset and burned the photos of the men who rejected them. The large bonfires and crowds became too rowdy that the French government eventually banned the practice.
Whether you follow any of these or have your own little traditions for this special occasion, we’d love to hear them! For more ideas and suggestions on celebrating Valentine’s Day, check out how our very own Jen Lutz prepares for a memorable gathering with family and friends. We wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day, and we hope you enjoy a day overflowing with thoughtfulness and love!