Valentine’s Day Around the World
Unique Valentine’s Day Traditions
Depending on where in the world you find yourself, holiday observations might look totally different than those to which you might be accustomed to. You likely first discovered this when diving into the various ways Christmas is celebrated internationally.
But did you know Valentine’s Day has just as many unique, global traditions as Christmas? It’s true!
In the United States, Valentine’s Day is often synonymous with baby cupids, red and pink paper hearts, tiny cards with candy attached, bouquets of roses, and boxes of chocolate. But, if you found yourself gifting these Americanized tokens of love and affection in a different country, you’d probably receive some confused looks.
We’ll show you what we’re talking about with a quick trip around the globe to see how other countries observe this day of romance.
Interestingly enough, Valentine’s Day has only recently been adopted into Danish culture. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the holiday was first observed as early as the 1990s. Since then, however, the country has fully embraced the idea, adding its own unique adaptation to the celebration. Instead of bestowing roses, lovers exchange pressed white flowers called Snowdrops. Additionally, men send women gaekkebrev, or “joking letters,” which are unsigned cards filled with humorous poetry. If the women guess the sender correctly, they win Easter eggs later in the year.
Valentine’s Day is so popular in South Korea, it’s actually considered a three-month holiday; celebrations of love begin in February and extend all the way through April. The official day of gift-giving begins on February 14th, with women showering men with gifts of chocolate and flowers. The following month though, the script is flipped and men buy gifts for women on March 14th, a day also known as “White Day.” For those unattached individuals, their day comes on April 14th, a day known as “Black Day.” On Black Day, it’s customary for single groups of friends to gather to console one another and eat Jjajangmyeon, a type of noodle covered in a black bean paste.
Most Philippine Valentine’s Day celebrations appear quite similar to those in Western culture with one noticeable exception. On February 14th, it’s traditional for Philipino couples to gather in large public spaces, such as parks or malls, to get married and to renew their wedding vows en masse.
Like many cultures, South Africans use Valentine’s Day as a way to bestow tokens of love upon their significant others. Customarily, unwed women pin the name of their love interest to the sleeve of their shirt. This is symbolic of ‘wearing their hearts on their sleeve.’ Many South African men learn they have a secret admirer in this way.
In Italy, some unmarried girls wake up before dawn and rush to a window to catch a glimpse of their future husbands. The old wives’ tale being, the first man she sees will be the man she’ll marry in one year’s time… Or at least, the man she spots will resemble the man she’ll marry. (It’s not exactly a precise science.) Couples, however, celebrate by exchanging gifts of flowers and chocolate-covered hazelnuts called Baci Perugina.
The Romanian celebration of love doesn’t take place on the 14th of February, rather 10 days later on the 24th. This day, known as Dragobete, signifies the end of the harsh winters and a day “when the birds are betrothed.” Often times, Romanian men will wait until the 24th to propose to their girlfriends as it is considered more of a romantic holiday than Valentine’s Day.
For many Western cultures, Valentine’s Day is the celebration of St. Valentine, a Catholic martyr who was sentenced to death for marrying young lovers against the will of the Roman empire. However, in Bulgaria, Valentine’s Day coincides with the feast day of St. Trifon Zarezan, the patron saint of vine growing and wine production. Often times the two feast days are observed simultaneously with the 14th of February encouraging the consumption of the country’s highest-quality wines.
It’s been rumored the first-ever Valentine’s Day card was created in France. Written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his bride Bonne of Armagnac in 1415, his lines of verse contained one of the first documented uses of the phrase “my Valentine.” Some of the card’s romance is lost when put in context. You see, Charles penned the letter while in prison and his bride passed before his release. Despite the depressing facts surrounding the inception of Valentine’s Day cards, the trend for writing and sending poetic notes came into fashion and continues to this day.
And in Denmark, it is customary to send unsigned Valentine’s cards. So if you ask your sweetheart if they sent you a card, they might respond, “I don’t know. Did you receive one today?”
Regardless of when, where, or how you celebrate Valentine’s Day, the holiday is an excellent reminder to take a little extra time to acknowledge and appreciate the ones we love. Whether your acknowledgment comes as a bouquet of flowers, a thoughtfully written card, or a box of sweets, don’t forget to find a way to share a little love this February.
If you find yourself in need of great Valentine’s Day gift ideas, Collin Street Bakery is here to help. We have a wide selection of decadently delicious treats perfect for any romantic occasion.