The history of Valentine’s Day has roots in several Roman tales of a man named Saint Valentine who died for love. Other accounts contend that the holiday had pagan origins and was altered to satisfy the growing Christian population. Whatever the real history of Valentine’s Day may be, February 14 now represents love all over the world. But not every country celebrates love the same way. Cultures around the world infuse the holiday with their own cultural identity. Check out these Valentine’s Day traditions from eight different countries.
Many cultures around the world celebrate this holiday of love with Valentine’s Day gifts such as flowers and chocolate. Japan is no exception to the chocolate rule, but there are some notable differences. In Japan, a woman gives the gift of chocolate or baked goods on Valentine’s Day. It is considered an especially romantic gesture if she makes the sweets herself. One month later, it becomes the man’s responsibility to return the gesture on what is called “White Day,” so named because it is traditional to give white sweets. Try these 12 aphrodisiac foods with your valentine.
With its rich Roman history of Valentine’s Day, Italy is of course very familiar with giving out Valentine’s Day gifts and having romantic dinners. When it comes to chocolate, there is one company that has the monopoly on this day: Baci Perugina. It’s literally the Italian version of giving out Hershey’s Kisses, since “baci” means “kisses” in Italian. And of course Verona, where the Shakespearean romance of Romeo & Juliet was set, hosts an incredible festival dedicated to love.
China has its own version of Romeo & Juliet. As the ancient Qixi Legend goes, two lovers, Niulang and Zhinü were a pair of star-crossed lovers separated by the heavens. The man, Niulang, was a cowherd while the woman, Zhinü, was a weaver fairy and the daughter of a goddess. Because of their vast differences in status, they were not permitted to be together, except for one day a year when a bridge between Earth and Heaven was built. Because Zhinü was so deft at weaving, it has long been tradition for Chinese women to show off similar skills this time of year. Chinese Valentine’s day is on the seventh day of the seventh Chinese lunar month, not February 14.
The rose is universally known as the flower of love, but it’s not the only one. In Denmark, lovers and friends exchange white snowdrop flowers. A love note is usually attached, but the name of the sender is kept secret. The receiver has until Easter to guess who sent the note. In fact, this Valentine’s Day tradition is more of an Easter tradition.
A lot of people dislike Valentine’s Day because they think it puts too much pressure on lovers to make it as special as possible. In South Korea, however, there is no need to worry, as there are 12 different love holidays. Each love holiday is celebrated on the 14th day of the month, and they all have different themes, from exchanging diaries and gifts of silver to simply taking photos together. In the meantime, check out our top 10 Asian food items.
One custom that is specific to the cultural identity of Brazil is the casting of simpatias, or enchantments. Think of them as little love spells. Each one is different, depending on if you’re trying to find a new lover or if you’re trying to rekindle an old flame. Someone trying to find new love should, according to custom, tie a blue ribbon around a picture of Saint Valentine.
Of course the typical fancy dinners, gifts and parties are present on Valentine’s Day in Thailand, but Thai culture also celebrates love in a very adventurous way. The rationale, according to Bangkok Post, is that love and marriage are lifetime adventures. This is why many couples take a light-hearted approach to the holiday, like hosting fun theme weddings or ziplining through the jungle.
Las Vegas may have drive-thru weddings and Elvis-impersonating pastors, but Nicaragua has weddings-by-radio. No, seriously. Because weddings can be expensive, couples who can’t afford them opt for an on-air wedding instead. Also popular are other types of weddings en masse in the center of a city square.