Valentine’s Day traditions around the globe

Graphic by Kash Patel

Have you ever wondered how holidays are celebrated around the world? In Russia, they eat pickles for Christmas. In Japan, they celebrate with Kentucky Fried Chicken on Dec. 25.

But what about Valentine’s Day? What can we take away from the traditions of those around the globe? Well, here are just a few examples of what to expect.

Estonia

Here’s an exciting one for all the singles out there. In Estonia, February 14 is known as Sobrapaev, or Friendship day. These festivities include everyone, from couples, to friends to family. 

In Estonia, no one is made to feel unremarkable on Valentine’s Day. They exchange gifts while simply enjoying each other’s company and appreciating those they love. 

Japan

On Valentine’s Day, the women are expected to provide the majority of the gift giving. Instead of cards, jewelry and flowers, they exchange chocolate. The women are expected to give chocolate not only to those they share a romantic interest in, but also to those they hold no attraction to.

But these chocolates are quite unique. Those given to a romantic interest are called Honmei-choco—which translates to “true feeling chocolate”—and are often more expensive, much fancier or even homemade. 

On the other hand, giri-choco is reserved for those you care for, just not romantically. Giri-choco is often cheap and produced rather quickly. In Japanese, “giri” means obligation, an unintentionally hilarious title.

Japan also celebrates the holiday “White Day” on March 14, a day for men to reciprocate their love back to their Valentine. They are often expected to go above and beyond and might not pass the test with a simple box of chocolates. 

South Korea

South Korea is similar to Japan in their practice of Valentine’s Day and White Day. But as for the single people, not the same can be said.

Black Day on April 14 is reserved for those without romantic companionship. They are said to mourn their loneliness by eating large, dark bowls of black-bean paste noodles—known as Jajangmyeon.

Italy

Italy has an interesting history when it comes to Valentine’s Day traditions. One of the oldest, no longer practiced, of these traditions drew from the theory that the first man a woman saw on Valentine’s Day would eventually become her husband.

I can’t imagine this was the most exciting practice for the young women of rural Sicily living stag with their fathers but it’s safe to say we’ve evolved.

Now, Italian Valentine’s Day traditions are quite similar to those in North America. A quaint exchange of gifts and a nice candle lit dinner is all that is expected. 

South Africa

Valentine’s Day in South Africa is full of love, celebrated by way of parades, flowers and other forms of affirmation.

It is also a popular tradition for women to literally wear their heart on their sleeve. Women will write the name of their romantic interest on their shoulder for the day, alerting the men of their secret admiration—a tradition called Lupercalia.

France

The city of love! La ville de l’amour! Often assumed the most romantic city in the world, France has some unique traditions when it comes to Valentine’s Day. 

A now illegal tradition in France is that of loterie d’amour, or the “drawing for love”. Men and women would fill large houses that were facing each other, spending the day taking their pick of the lot. 

Men who were not satisfied with their new amour could simply go off and find another one. No strings attached. The women who faced rejection would then huddle around a bonfire, burning photos of the men who had wronged them.

The tradition was eventually banned by the government. In France, Valentine’s Day is celebrated quite similarly to North America: chocolates, flowers, jewelry. All that boring crap.

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