The season of love is filling the air once again. Cut-out red hearts on window fronts, crowded flower shops, and aisles of chocolate truffles is the current neighborhood scenery. What’s not to love about... love? Although we associate Valentine’s Day with romance and grand gestures, we have extended the holiday to be more than that. In fact, the USA is known to celebrate the love of family, friends, neighbors, and not exclusively to just romantic relationships. But did you ever wonder how other countries celebrate Valentines Day’s? Believe or not, there are all sorts of different ways this holiday is observed worldwide. Let’s take a look!
Denmark’s Way With Words
You may think Valentine’s Day has been around for centuries - but Denmark is an exception. It was until the 1990’s, that the holiday was even recognized! The history tells a tale of flower vendors who had hopes of making this day conventional. With no such luck, a popular supermarket chain called Netto decided to promote items with a “romantic” theme. The products were marketed during Valentine’s Day season and many people soon contributed to what made it mainstream. Today, some of the traditions include exchanging white flowers called “snow drops.” As well as exchanging cards with their loved one’s picture, and it so vital that this tradition is named the “lover’s card.”
France Is For the Lovers
It would be silly to not mention how this country celebrates Valentine’s Day. After all, their most popular city is known as “the city of love.” France typically acknowledges this holiday to romantic couples only. It is actually seen as a bit odd, or even frowned upon, to send Valentine’s gift to friends or family. Those in relationships will typically send each other flowers or go out for dinner. However, card giving is actually rare! This does not only happen for this particular day, but other holidays as well. France also creates special themed chocolates and pastries, but only at chocolateries and pâtisseries.
China’s Most Popular Day of Marriage
In China, most of traditions stem from Western Culture. Like the U.S., they too exchange flowers, chocolates, any small gifts. Specifically, men are encouraged to send only red roses, jewelry, or even a dress. Women will typically purchase manly items such as a watch or a tie. This day also follows a romantic dinner date, with a special menu. Movie theaters are an even bigger date spots for Valentine’s Day. In addition, there is one special tradition that is specific to Chinese culture. Those who are looking to wed or recently engaged often plan their wedding registry on Valentine’s Day. How romantic!
Italy’s Ode To Romeo & Juliet
Similarly to France, Italy has declared Valentine’s Day exclusively for the lovers and sweethearts. In fact, the day is also called “La Festa Degli Innamorati”, which translates to “The Day of Those Who Are In Love”. Much like American culture, they follow the tradition of exchanging chocolates and flowers. Some of the more Italian traditions includes incorporating certain themes that could relate to Valentine’s Day. The infamous region of Perugina, for instance, makes a special edition of their “Baci” chocolate candy. The chocolate is usually hazelnut centered but is replaced with a cherry filling for the occasion. It is also wrapped in a festive red wrapper, with a romantic phrase inside. Verona, located in Rome, designates a four-day Valentine’s Day festival to honor the birthplace and romance of Romeo and Juliet. The festival includes free concerts and a contest for the “best letter written to Juliet.”
South Korea Breaks A Romance Norm
Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity for the single women of South Korea. Unlike most traditional festivities, it is a day for a woman to make the first move. Women in Korea are expected to give chocolates to the man they are interested in or have feelings for. Men are actually not supposed to exchange a gift in return until March 14th, a holiday called White Day. This day is dedicated for the men who received chocolates on Valentine’s Day are supposed to give the women either white chocolate or lingerie. Some men even follow the “Rule of 3”, where he is supposed spend 3x more than what the woman spent. On the other hand, Valentine’s Day is still considered a big day for chocolate companies regardless. The most popular are Ferrero Rocher, Twix, and Chupa Chups.
What are other interesting traditions to know about?
There are other counties that have their own unique Valentine’s Day customs:
In Germany, Valentinstag (Valentine’s Day in German) is considered an adult holiday. The most notable tradition is the lebkuchen – a ginger heart with a special message addressed to the person’s valentine, most likely Ïch liebe dich”(I love you)
Valentine’s Day in Russia did not become popular until just 30 years ago, in 1991, after the collapse of the USSR. Russians in general exchange customary gifts. However, giving flowers is the utmost romantic gesture a woman can receive.
In Mexico, this day is to celebrate the love for your family and friends.That is why this day is known as El Día del Amor y la Amistad (The Day of Love and Friendship).
Japan has adistinctive way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. This includes giving 3 different kinds of chocolates to their loved ones depending on the type of relationships they have with them: ”Giri Choco” - 義理チョコ – known as the obligation chocolates are meant for co-workers and family members. ”Honmei Choco” - 本命チョコ is for romantic relationships or a romantic interest. ”Tomo Choco” - 友チョコ is for single women to give to their closest female friends.
In Brazil, Valentine’s Day is not on February 14th, instead they have Dia dos Namorados (translated as “Lovers’ Day”) which falls on June 12th. The main reasons are to prevent any interference with the Carnival which usually happens around February 14th, and instead is on the eve of a very romantic Day – Saint Anthony’s Day. Saint Anthony is known as the patron of marriage of young couples.
In India, Valentine’s Day is a recent tradition imported from the Western. On one hand, this is widely accepted by the younger more liberal generations. On the other hand, the older more traditional generations are having a hard time accepting a modern holiday – which creates protests and demonstrations over religious values in the country.
As you can see, love is celebrated in all different ways across the world. It’s fascinating to see how countries all interpret Valentine’s day in their own unique way. The holiday reveals how, above all, love is a universal language we all partake in. Whether you enjoy an evening with your special someone or a spend the day with a friend, Happy Valentine’s Day!
Alessandra Lanno considers herself both an avid reader and writer. Born and raised in