How you ever question how other cultures celebrate valentine’s day? And now that Valentine’s Day is approaching, I have also asked the question myself.
And today I bring you some ways that I have compiled. Some are beautiful, others are strange, but they are all unique. Let’s enjoy.
- Japan: Japanese Valentine’s tradition switches up traditional gender roles around the holiday, with women often presenting chocolates to men instead of vice versa. Many women will also take the extra step of making their own chocolate to give as gifts on the holiday, though stores are nonetheless packed with premade chocolate starting in mid-January. The country’s national confectioner’s association pushed a successful campaign in the 1980s to make March 14 a day when men could return the favor with white chocolate, which is why the March holiday is known as “White Day.”
- South Korea: Adapted from the Japanese tradition of Valentine’s Day, women in South Korea too, spoil their men with chocolates on this day. In return, they receive gifts on ‘White Day’ from men in a similar fashion as in Japan. However, it doesn’t end there. They have taken the Valentine’s traditions a step further and introduced what they call “Black Day”. On the April 14th, a month after ‘White Day’ the single people who didn’t receive any lovin’ (chocolates or gifts) on Valentine’s Day or White Day for that matter, have started an informal tradition of meeting up at restaurants to eat ‘jajangmyeon’ (자장면 ), a dish made up of white Korean noodles with a black bean sauce, referred to as black noodles. Some say this tradition of eating black noodles with other single friends is a celebration of the single life, while some see it as is more of a consolation dinner or mourning of being single. That said, South Koreans are a romantic bunch and have practically marked the 14th of every month to signify some sort of ‘Love’ related day. January 14, kicks off with Candle Day; February 14- Valentine’s Day; March 14- White Day; April 14- Black Day; May 14- Rose Day; June 14- Kiss Day; July 14- Silver Day; August 14- Green Day; September 14- Music Day; October 14- Wine Day; November 14- Movie Day; December 14- Hug Day.
- Taiwan: In Taiwan, the Japanese/South Korean tradition of Valentine’s Day and White Day is reversed in the sense that, men gift women chocolates and gifts on Valentine’s Day whereas the women reciprocate and return the favor by gifting men chocolates on White Day.
- Denmark & Norway: Largely imported from the west ‘Valentinsdag’ as it is known or Valentine’s Day was not very widely celebrated here until more recently. However, they have still managed to come up with their very own quirky little tradition, that locals have embraced and made popular on this day. “Gaekkebrev” are funny little poems or rhyming love notes that men send to women anonymously on Valentine’s Day, giving them only a clue as to the number of letters in the senders name, represented by a dot for each letter. The recipient must then guess who sent her the card. If she guesses correctly she wins an Easter Egg on Easter later that year and if she’s stumped as to who her secret admirer was, she owes him an egg instead which is collected on Easter.
- Slovenia: The 14th of February in Slovenia, marks the first working in the fields. St Valentine or ‘Zdravko’ as he’s better known there, is one of their patron saints of spring. There’s a Slovene proverb that goes “St Valentine brings the keys of roots”. As such, it’s an auspicious day to start working in vineyards and fields as usually around this time of year one starts noticing the revival of plants and flowers. The people of Slovenia also have a belief that the birds of the fields propose to their loved ones and get married on this day (simply put, it’s the mating season for some birds), and to witness this one must walk barefoot through the field on sometimes still frozen ground. So, while this day is significant in the agricultural community in Slovenia, it isn’t until March 12, on Saint Gregory’s Day, that the majority of people celebrate their annual day of love. They also consider February 22 (Saint Vincent’s Day) and 13 June (the patron of love Saint Anthony’s Day) days to celebrate love.
- Finland & Estonia: Here Valentine’s Day is more a celebration of friendship rather than a romantic love fest. February 14th is called “Ystävän Päivä” in Finnish and Sõbrapäev in Estonian, which literally translates to “Friend’s Day”. People exchange cards & gifts among friends with the greeting of “Happy Friends Day”. It is however, a popular day to tie the knot or get engaged.
- Wales: The Welsh celebrate ‘St. Dwynwen’s Day’ (the patron saint of lovers) on January 25th, which is their equivalent to Valentine’s Day. Legend goes that Dwynwen, daughter of King Brychan Brycheinog lived in Anglesey, in the 5th century and fell in love with a young man named Maelon. As all legendary love stories go, tragedy struck when the two were unable to be together (for reasons not entirely known, as the word of mouth story varies – some say she was raped by Maelon, while others state her father disapproved of the union and had her betrothed to someone else). Whatever the reasons, she was said to be distraught and fled into the woods where she encountered an angel who gave her a potion to cool her love for Maelon. The potion however, did more than just that, Maelon was turned into a solid block of ice. Further distraught by this icy addition to her problem, Dwynwen prayed and God (some versions say the angel) granted her 3 wishes. She is said to have wished for Maelon’s release from his icy tomb, secondly, that God watches over all true lovers and helps them realize their dreams and hopes or guides them through their sadness and love, and lastly, that she never marries. After being granted her wishes Dwynwen retreated to a life of dedication to the Church as a nun on the Island of Llanddwyn.
On this Welsh Valentine’s Day, it is customary to gift love-spoons, an age old tradition that got started when Welsh men (possibly originating among sailors), would carve intricately decorated spoons of wood and would present them to a lady that they were interested in courting or marrying. The designs they carved on the spoon handles were symbolic too. For example- Keys would signify a man’s heart, wheels his hard work and beads, his preferred number of offspring and so on. This tradition is carried on even today, as men gift their lady’s spoons.
- England: In the 1700’s, on the eve of Valentine’s day single women in England used to place/pin five bay leaves, one at each corner of their pillows and one in the center, with the belief that it would bring them dreams of their future husbands. Another variation of this tradition was to sprinkle bay leaves with rosewater and lay them across their pillows saying “Good Valentine, be kind to me, In dreams let me my true love see”. Now mostly considered folklore, this tradition is not widely practiced anymore but can still be seen once in a while.
- Norfolk, England: Along with traditional Valentine’s Day customs of cards and flowers and romance, the people of Norfolk in the East of England, have a Santa Clause of sorts that goes by the name ‘Jack Valentine’ and sometimes known as Old Father Valentine or even Old Mother Valentine. This lovable but mysterious character is said to knock at little children’s doors on Valentine’s Eve and sneakily leaves them little treats and small presents. Although it isn’t quite known when or how this tradition got started, it’s still quite popular for generations of parents to continue what their parents had once done for them.
- France: Dubbed one of the most romantic countries in the world, it comes as no surprise that France too houses a strange Valentine’s Day tradition. Their most popular tradition was called “une loterie d’amour” that translates to “drawing for love”. This practice involved single men and women of all ages to enter houses that faced opposite each other and take turns calling out to one another until they were paired off. If the men didn’t like their match, they would simply leave the woman for another man to call. As part of the tradition, the women that didn’t get matched up, got together for a big ceremonial bonfire in which they tossed pictures & objects of the men who rejected them, whilst swearing and hurling curses at the opposite sex. This tradition truly exemplified the phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!”, so much so, that French government officially banned the practice all together because of how rowdy and uncontrollable the whole event usually got.
- Ghana: Though Ghanaian s have adopted many of the same Valentine’s traditions as other parts of the world, since 2007, Feb.14 has also been known as “National Chocolate Day” in Ghana, one of the world’s largest cocoa exporters. The move, which aims to promote Ghana’s contribution to chocolate production through museum exhibits and special chocolate-themed restaurant menus, was pushed by the country’s tourism ministry as a means of attracting visitors to the West African nation.
- South Africa: Some young South Africans celebrate Valentine’s Day by pinning the name of their sweetheart to their sleeve, in a tradition that is known in the country as Lupercalia, in reference to the ancient Roman fertility festival that preceded Valentine’s Day in the West.
And this is how some of our neighbors celebrate one of the most romantic days of the year.
In my particular case, even though I love the chocolates, and jewelry, my wife and I, we love to travel, and what a better excuse that to give away a trip for the valentine’s day?