February 14th brings around a time where couples celebrate their love and support for each other. For me, I’ve never really made a big deal of Valentine’s Day as it does seem a little cliché. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ll never say no to a little spoiling whether it’s by my own means or otherwise. Although it got me thinking how do other cultures around the world celebrate? I did some research and found some interesting traditions… and a few I might just start adopting myself! Bonus points to those who can figure out which ones I’m talking about.
Might as well start with what I know, right? Valentine’s Day has been a fairly big thing for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school I remember taking time a few days ahead to decorate an envelope adorned with hearts, glitter, and my name dead centre. On February 14th, my classmates and I would exchange little Valentines along with chocolates and candies by placing them in the envelopes. We were always excited for it, although for the treats, not so much the cards themselves. Nowadays I tend to prefer low-key Valentine’s Days. Nothing too fancy, maybe a small gift and a good meal. Home cooked are often the best for that! As for cards? I now steer clear. I’d rather give my boyfriend the $5!
Known as El Día de Los Enamorados, February 14th is said to be more low-key celebration wise than in Canada or the USA. However it makes sense considering they don’t celebrate only one day, but an entire week! Starting February 13th, friends and lovers exchange candies and kisses while celebrating each other, with the week ending on the 20th which is known as Friendship Day. Their celebrations don’t stop there though! They also celebrate Semana de la Dulzura or ‘Sweetness Week’ from July 1st to 7th where Argentinians exchange candies for a kiss with one another. That’s one way to break the ice!
With Carnival being the highlight of February, Brazilians celebrate Dia dos Namorados on June 12th. It’s a widely celebrated day with musical performances and festivals across the country. The day isn’t just for lovers either as gifts and dinners are shared with friends and relatives also! However, June 13th is known as Saint Anthony’s Day, a day dedicated to the patron saint of marriage. On this day, single women perform simpatias or rituals to help them find a significant other. For example, they write the name of three potential partners on slips of paper the night of the 12th and place them under their pillow before they fall asleep. When they wake up on the 13th, the first paper they choose is the person they should seek!
So Germany’s a bit of a toss-up. From what I’ve seen and read, the country has mixed reviews when it comes to Valentine’s Day. First it seems as though Germans aren’t overly big on the day and that it only really started gaining traction in the 1950s due to the post-WWII American influence. To me however, it seems as though Germans are more affectionate on a regular basis, often habitually calling each other by pet names. People will purchase flowers and lingerie for their significant others, as well as heart-shaped gingerbread cookies called Lebkuchenherzen. However you’ll see these cookies on a regular basis, especially in train stations (that’s where Robin bought me one). And according to one article, over 15% of Germans believe the day is an invention of the flower industry. If you are looking to celebrate though, your best bet is Bavaria as they seem to embrace the day the most!
Gentlemen, you’ll be enjoying this holiday as Valentine’s Day is all about you! Ladies give different types of chocolates which show the varying levels of affection to the males in their lives. The chocolates vary from cho-giri-choko which are lowest on the scale and mainly reserved for men the ladies don’t particularly care for but feel obligated to give something to, like that un-popular co-worker. Next up is the giri-choko which is reserved mainly for bosses and colleagues as a polite gesture of appreciation. Third is tomo-choko which is used for showing friends that you care about them (and more recently has been given to lady friends as well!) with the last being honmei-choko. These are reserved for that special someone in your life that has stolen your heart. These varying levels are understood widely, meaning there’s no need for words here… you’re out of luck Hallmark! Don’t worry though ladies, we get this affection reciprocated a month later on March 14th, known as Ai ni Kotaeru White Day (translates to Answer Love on White Day). On this day, the men present their ladies with gifts and chocolates to show their affection. Oh, and it’s an unwritten rule to spend at least 2-3 times more than what the men received on Valentine’s Day. Worth the wait I’d say!
Valentine’s Day and White Day is celebrated here just like in Japan, although they take it a step further and have ‘Black Day’ as well. On April 14th, single men and women who didn’t receive any love during either holiday meet up and eat ‘jajanmyeon’, a dish made of white Korean noodles and a black bean sauce. If you don’t think this is enough, the 14th of every month has a romantic twist in South Korea! For example, June 14th is Kiss Day and October 14th is Wine Day… I can definitely get behind that!
These are just a few of the fun traditions that happen around the world! If you want to read more, there’s plenty of fabulous articles on the internet, including some from A Cruising Couple, the International TEFL Academy, the Huffington Post, and Today I Found Out.
Do you embrace any other cultures and partake in any of these traditions? What are your Valentine’s Day rituals? I’d love to hear about them! Also if I’ve left out anything or misinterpreted any rituals you’re familiar with, please feel free to comment or shoot me a message so I can rectify my mistakes!