7 Global Valentine’s Day Traditions

Happy Valentine’s Day! February 14 is all about sharing the love – and maybe a little bit of chocolate! While roses and cute cards may now be synonymous with the holiday, there are unique celebrations around the world. Here are 7 places with Valentine’s traditions that you may not know about.

1. Japan

On Valentine’s Day in Japan, the pressure falls on women to show their appreciation. Traditionally, there are two types of chocolate presented. “Giri-choco” (obligation chocolate) goes to male bosses, colleagues and friends, and “Honmei-choco” (true-feelings chocolate) is for your sweetheart. Times are shifting, though, and more women are choosing to give chocolates to their female friends or avoid the practice altogether. To learn more about the changing traditions of “giri-choco”, we highly recommend this recent article from BBC news!

 

2. Denmark

Denmark is among the many countries that have adopted the more commercial Valentine traditions of chocolate and roses, but you can still find traditional gaekkebrev being exchanged on 2/14. Translated as “joking letters,” gaekkebrev feature poems or rhymes on intricately cut pieces of paper. Signed with dots and delivered secretly, the letters require the intended to figure out who the sender was. If they do, they’ll be rewarded with an Easter egg in March!

 

3. Norfolk, England

Shhh – go to sleep or Jack Valentine won’t pay the house a visit! Much like Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny, Norfolk’s Jack Valentine is a stealthy gift giver, dropping off presents, knocking on the door and disappearing into thin air before anyone can see him. If you’re unlucky, Jack will play a trick, tying a string to your present before yanking it away.   

 

4. Wales

Although not technically celebrated on February 14th, the Welsh holiday of St Dwynwen’s Day is in the same spirit. Dwynwen was a 4th century Welsh princess who fell in love with a man she was not permitted to marry. Asking God to help her and all true romantics, she promised to establish a convent in exchange and became the patron saint of lovers. On her feast day, Welsh couples exchange romantic gifts, most notably the intricately carved Lovespoons.

 

 

 

5. South Korea

Much like in Japan, on Korean Valentine’s day, it’s typically up to women to make the first move toward romance with gifts of flowers and chocolates. One month later, on March 14th’s White Day, men are expected to reciprocate with white-covered chocolates and a gift. If they don’t have anyone by April 15th, they can mourn their singleness by eating black noodles with other lonely hearts.

Black bean noodles eaten on April 15 (Photo by Flickr user Debbie Tingzon)

 

6. Guatemala

Who said love is only for the young? In Guatemala City, the Old Love Parade celebrates seniors citizens. Dressing up in colorful costumes, frequently inspired by Mayan culture, participants are cheered through the streets of the historic city center. The day as a whole is referred to as El Día del Cariño and is as much a time to appreciate friends and family as it is romance.

 

7. South Africa

The ancient Roman festival of ‘Lupercalia‘ is said to be part of the origin story of Valentine’s Day (Thanks Chaucer!), and while most elements of the original bacchanalia have been lost, part of the tradition lives on in South Africa. On February 14, young girls pin the name of their beloved on their sleeve, a practice that was common in Lupercalia celebrations. Putting your heart on your sleeve is a charmingly bold move!

 

Share your Valentine’s Day traditions in the comments!

 

 

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