Valentine’s Day Traditions from Around the World

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and traditionally in the United States this means giving your significant other sweets, gifts, flowers, and/or cards. Just like with other customs, language, and geography, traditions surrounding this holiday differ the world round. Here is a look at some of the more interesting traditions from countries around the globe.

Information for this blog came from 18 Valentine’s Day Traditions Around The World In 2022 To Make The Day Of Love Special!, 14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Valentine’s Day Traditions Around The World, 9 unusual Valentine’s Day traditions around the world, and 10 Valentine’s Day Traditions All Around the World.

Argentina

Argentinians don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in Feb, but “the week of sweetness” in July. It’s the day when lovers exchange kisses and receive chocolates and other sweets. In the country, the day actually started as a commercial invention but later became Valentine’s traditions.

China (Southwest)

In Miao, southwest China, the “Sisters’ Meal” festival is celebrated on 15th March. During the festival, women wear silver accessories and beautiful dresses, which are probably the most gorgeous Valentine’s Day customs around the world. They cook various dishes of colored rice that’s offered on silk fabric to young men walking on roads. The destiny of the lovelies inside the object found in the chosen rice. Two chopsticks mean love and a clove of garlic means the love is over before it has even begun.

Finland and Estonia

Finland and Estonia celebrate Friend’s Day on February 14, a day for honoring both friends and significant others. Cards and gifts are still given out and can be for anyone from a best friend to a neighbor. February 14 is also a popular day to get engaged in both countries. Additionally, Estonia has an interesting tradition for single people—they can take a ride on the Love Bus in hopes of meeting someone special.

France

In addition to being known as a destination for lovers, this country has a very rich history when it comes to Valentine’s Day including the more mundane origination of the first Valentine’s Day when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415.

Another traditional Valentine’s Day event in France was the loterie d’amour, or “drawing for love.” Men and women would fill houses that faced one another, and then take turns calling out to one another and pairing off. Men who weren’t satisfied with their match could simply leave a woman for another, and the women left unmatched gathered afterward for a bonfire.

During the bonfire, women burned pictures of the men who wronged them and hurled swears and insults at the opposite sex. The event became so uncontrollable that the French government eventually banned the tradition all together.

Germany

The Germans love their pigs and often give out related gifts on Valentine’s Day. Not real ones, maybe just little keepsakes and cartoons. Pigs are considered a symbol of luck in Germany, and they’re just as common in Valentine’s Day displays as cupids are in the States.

Ghana

In Ghana, Feb 14 is celebrated as the “National Chocolate Day.” It is a step that the Ghana government took in 2007 to increase tourism in the country. Ghana is among the largest cocoa-producing countries in the world. On Feb 14, one can attend performances, music events, and restaurants that have themed menus for the special day.

Japan

In Japan, it’s the gals who spoil the object of their affections with chocolates – but it’s the type of chocolate given that counts.

For husbands, boyfriends, or prospective partners, high quality/extremely delicious honmei-choco (‘true feeling’) chocolates are hand delivered, while colleagues or acquaintances receive giri-choco (the cheaper ‘obligation chocolate’). If you’re unlucky (or unlikeable?), you might even end up with a box of cho-giri choco: ultra-obligation chocolate reserved for the most unpopular of male colleagues. Ouch.

When White Day comes around on March 14, those who received honmei-choco are expected to return the sweet favor by giving their loved ones presents worth two to three times the chocolates they received, like jewelry or fancy underwear.

The romance, or lack of, doesn’t end there though, with romantic celebrations continuing on the 14th of the month throughout the year; May’s Rose Day, June’s Kiss Day, and December’s Hug Day to name a few.

Norway

Translated into English roughly as ‘joke letters’, Gaekkebrev – a Norwegian tradition originating in the 18th century – is more romantic than it sounds. Secret admirers pen poems to their beloved, before cutting intricate patterns into the paper and pressing a small white Snowdrop flower inside. The ‘joke’ comes from the letter’s signature – or rather, it’s absence. Instead, budding poets sign off with a dot for each letter of their name.

If the lady correctly guesses who her admirer is, she wins an Easter egg at Easter. If not, the yolk is on her, and she has to give him one instead.

Russia (Belgorod)

Belgorod, Russia banned the holiday because it is designed for commercial purposes and “does not help young people to develop spiritual and moral values.”

Slovenia

In Slovenia, St Valentine is one of the patron saints of spring and February 14 marks the first day of working in the fields for the New Year. It’s believed that this is the day that plants start to regenerate (there’s even a proverb that says “St Valentine brings the keys of roots”).

There’s also a belief that birds ‘propose’ to each other on this day, and to bear witness to the occasion, you must walk barefoot through fields that are often still frozen. It’s Saint Gregory’s Day on March 12 when people generally celebrate their love for each other (in a hopefully warmer, less frostbite-y way).

South Africa

Like many parts of the world, South Africa celebrates Valentine’s Day with festivals, flowers and other tokens of love. It’s also customary for women in South Africa to wear their hearts on their sleeves on February 14th; women pin the names of their love interest on their shirtsleeves, an ancient Roman tradition known as Lupercalia. In some cases, this is how South African men learn of their secret admirers.

Wales

You won’t find the Welsh celebrating Saint Valentine — instead, people in Wales celebrate Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, on January 25th.

One traditional romantic Welsh gift is a love spoon. As early as the 17th century, Welsh men carved intricate wooden spoons as a token of affection for the women they loved. Patterns and symbols were carved into these love spoons, each signifying a different meaning. A few examples include horseshoes, which stand for good luck; wheels, which symbolize support; and keys, which symbolize the keys to a man’s heart.

Today, love spoons are also exchanged for celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries and births.

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