Valentine’s Day is known around the world as a celebration of love and romance where people show their affection for their loved ones, often by exchanging cards and gifts. Although the day is celebrated in many countries, the way people spend it can be very different!
Here are some examples of how people celebrate Valentine’s Day in different countries around the world:
Unlike in most Western cultures, it is traditional in Japan for women to give men gifts (often chocolate) on 14th February. A month later, on 14th March, Japan celebrates White Day, where men traditionally present women with gifts such as jewellery, clothing and chocolates that are around two or three times more valuable than the gifts they received from their partners on Valentine’s Day
2. South Korea
Valentine’s Day traditions in South Korea are similar to those of Japan and it is customary for women in South Korea to buy men gifts on 14th February. They also celebrate White Day one month later when the men reciprocate their feelings buy giving women gifts on 14th March.
However, after this day, South Koreans continue the tradition with Black Day where single people meet up to celebrate or mourn single life (depending on their viewpoint). Many will meet up at restaurants to eat jajangmyeon (자장면), which is made up of Korean noodles in black bean sauce and referred to as black noodles.
3. Denmark & Norway
On Valentine’s Day, it is customary for Danish and Norwegian men to send women Gaekkebrev which are funny poems or love letters. They send these notes anonymously and leave a small clue at the bottom of the page (a series of dots where each dot represents one letter of their name). The woman must then guess who has sent her the card and, if she is right, she will receive an Easter egg later in the year. If she fails to guess the identity of her secret admirer, she must give him an Easter egg instead.
4. Finland & Estonia
On 14th February in Finland and Estonia, friendship rather than romantic love is celebrated. The day is referred to as ‘Friends’ Day’ and people exchange cards and presents with their friends.
In Italy, Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated as the Spring Festival, where young couples would gather outside in gardens to enjoy poetry readings and music. It was also said that the first man a young, unmarried woman saw on Valentine’s Day would be the man she would marry.
Today, Italians celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving gifts to their partners and having candlelit dinners together. One of the most popular gifts to give are baci perugina, which are chocolate-covered hazelnuts wrapped in paper with romantic notes printed in four languages.
Brazilians celebrate their version of Valentine’s Day or Dia dos Namorados (Lovers’ Day) on 12th June. On this day, music festivals and events take place throughout the country and gifts and cards are exchanged with friends and family as well as romantic partners.
7. South Africa
As with many Western cultures, South Africans celebrate Valentine’s Day by going on a romantic date with their loved one and exchanging cards and gifts. It is also customary for young women and some men to take part in an old Roman tradition known as Lupercalia where they pin the name of their love interest on their sleeve.
Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in France in the same way as many Western countries by giving flowers, Valentine’s cards and gifts to romantic partners and love interests.
However, an old tradition which is now banned was une loterie d’amour or ‘a drawing for love’. This custom would take place in two houses situated opposite each other where single men in one house would face single women in the other and they would call out to each other through the windows until they eventually paired off. If the men were not fond of their match, they would leave her for another man to call. All of the women who were not matched by the end would gather around a bonfire in which they burned images and belongings of the men who rejected them.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the Philippines in a similar way to Western countries but it is also common for shared wedding ceremonies to take place on this day. The custom of mass wedding ceremonies has become popular in the recent years and many couples get married or renew their wedding vows together all year round.
10. United Kingdom
Across the UK, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the same way as many other countries and it is customary for British people to exchange flowers, cards, chocolates and other gifts with their loved one. Historically, St Valentine’s Day was celebrated differently depending on the region:
An old Scottish tradition during Valentine’s parties is to play a game where an equal number of single men and women write their names on pieced of paper which are then folded and dropped into two hats (one for men and one for women). Each woman then draws the name of one man from the hat and vice versa. If a man and woman draw matching names from their respective hats, they have to stay together throughout the evening. If a man draws a name which does not match, he has to spend the evening with the woman who drew his name from the hat. Today, the tradition is not widely practised but it is still played in some households just for fun.
The Welsh equivalent to Valentine’s Day is St Dwynwen’s Day which honours the patron saint of lovers and is celebrated on the 25th January each year. On this day, hand-carved wooden spoons were traditionally given by men to their love interests. They would carve intricate designs onto the spoons’ handles which had symbolic significance. For example, wheels would signify a man’s hard work and keys would represent his heart.
Traditionally, unmarried women in England would pin bay leaves on each corner of their pillow in the belief that they would dream of their future husband. Young ladies would also write their love interests’ names on pieces of paper and put them inside clay balls that they would drop into the water. It was believed that the name on whichever paper came up first would represent their future husband.
In Norfolk in the East of English, traditional folklore tells of a character called ‘Jack Valentine’ which is said to leave presents for children on Valentines’ eve. Although it is not known how this tradition started, it is still practiced amongst some families.