Valentine's Day Celebrations Around the World

By Amanda Little

Love is universal, and everyone has their own way of expressing it. Journey around the world to experience love in its many forms.

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August 31 - September 30, Matchmaking Festival • Ireland

The largest singles event in Europe takes place in the small town of Lisdoonvarna, which lays claim to the tradition of matchmaking since the 1800s. The last true matchmaker is Willie Daly, who keeps a book of profiles of available singles and lives next to the 300-year-old cottage where he was born. Many bachelors have looked to him for assistance in finding a love match.

February 14th, Barentain Bē • Japan

Japan does Valentine’s Day with an interesting twist: only girls give chocolate to the important men in their lives! They give “obligation chocolate,” or giri choko to friends, co-workers, and classmates, and “true feelings chocolate,” or honmei choko, to romantic interests. Exactly a month later on March 14th, men reciprocate Valentine’s Day on White Day, where they give small gifts and white chocolate.

February 14th, Ballentain Dei • South Korea

While South Korea adopted Valentine’s Day and White Day like Japan, they took it a step further, finding a way to include all of the people who were not given gifts. One month after White Day, on April 14th, is Black Day. Anyone who missed out goes out for a jajamyeon, a dish of black bean-paste noodles. On the bright side, those who were single for the festivities at the beginning of the year can look forward to every 14th, because South Korea celebrates love with a different theme each month.

September 20th, Dia de Amor y Amistad • Colombia

Take your loved one to Colombia in September to celebrate Dia de Amor y Amistad, or Love and Friendship Day. While this day isn’t strictly romantic, it's more inclusive, bringing friends and loved ones together for dinner, drinks, and secret santa-style gift-giving games. This holiday was actually established in 1969 because there were no recognized holidays in September!

February 23 & March 8, Defender of the Fatherland Day & International Women’s Day • Russia

While Russia doesn’t have a Valentine’s Day or something similar, they celebrate the special people in their lives on different days. Women are celebrated on International Women’s Day on March 8th. Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, aunts, and girlfriends all receive flowers, chocolates, and little presents from the men in their lives. Women reciprocate the gesture on February 23, Defender of the Fatherland Day.

February 14, Araw ng mga Puso • The Philippines

Valentine’s Day is met with wild enthusiasm in the Philippines, where mass weddings have become popular. In 2010, more than 1,500 couples were married on February 14th, and that number jumped to 4,000 in 2013. Other than mass weddings, Valentine’s Day in the Philippines has similar traditions of exchanging chocolates, gifting flowers, and going out to dinner.

February 14, Valentins Dag • Denmark

While many parts of the world gift flowers for the romantic holiday, Denmark's tradition of gaekkebrev really steals the show. These charming “joke letters” are comprised of silly rhymes, funny poems and love letters, written on paper that has been cut in an intricate pattern. The letters are signed with a single letter from the person’s name. If the receiver correctly guesses the sender, the sender owes them an Easter Egg later in the year!

February 14, Valentine’s Day • South Africa

While South Africa celebrates Valentine’s Day with flowers, love tokens, and festivals, a unique tradition involves women pinning hearts to their sleeves with the name of the love interest on them. Sometimes, this is even how South African men learn about their secret admirers.

February 14, La Saint Valentin • France

France, the country known around the world for being a romantic destination, has celebrated Valentine’s Day in full for decades. It’s even said that the first Valentine’s Day card originated from Charles, Duke of Orleans in 1415. He sent a love letter to his wife while he was jailed in the Tower of London and signed it “Your Valentine.”

One unromantic tradition, the Loterie d’Amour, allowed single men to choose a woman from a house of single women, and if he didn’t like his pick, he could exchange her for another. This, of course, went over poorly among women. They would burn photos of the men and scream profanities, and the backlash became so uncontrollable the government was forced to ban the tradition entirely.

January 25, St. Dwynwen’s Day • Wales

The Welsh don’t exchange chocolates or cards for Valentine’s Day. Instead, you’ll find Saint Dwynwen being celebrated on January 25th where men gift women they love with beautifully carved wooden spoons. Each spoon is unique, with patterns and symbols each meaning something different. Some spoons have horseshoes (symbolizing luck), wheels (support), and keys (keys to a man’s heart). This tradition also extends to giving these spoons on anniversaries, weddings, and births.

July 7, Qixi • China

China’s celebration of love is similar to Valentine’s Day, but is celebrated specifically on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Unsurprisingly, this festival is called the Seventh Night Festival, or Qixi. Lore says a heavenly king’s daughter, Zhinu, and a poor cowherd, Niulang, fell in love, married, and had twins. When Zhinu’s father found out what happened, he forced her to return to the stars away from her lover, but Zhinu’s mother took pity on her daughter’s cries and allowed the couple to meet once a year. Young women prepare offering of melon and fruits for Zhinu, and couples pray for happiness and prosperity.

February 14, Valentine’s Day • England

When a woman takes five bay leaves, dips them in rosewater and places them on her pillow, one for each corner and one in the center, then you’ll know it’s St. Valentine’s Day. This is thought to bring dreams of their beloved, and children await Jack Valentine, who sneaks by houses at night to drop small gifts and candies on their front porch.

June 12 & 13, Lovers’ Day and St. Anthony’s Day • Brazil

Because Carnival is held between February and March, most Brazilians skip Valentine’s Day in favor of Lovers’ Day, or Dia dos Namorados on June 12th. It includes western traditions like exchanging chocolate, flowers, and cards, but adds music festivals and country-wide performances. This holiday isn’t limited to romantic couples either, bringing friends and family into the celebrations. The day after is Saint Anthony’s Day, which commemorates married couples under the patron saint of marriage.

February 14, Valentinstag • Germany

While not nearly the commercialized holiday it is around the world, Germany still celebrates Valentine’s Day. They exchange the traditional chocolates, flowers, and heart-shaped gifts, as well as one extra gift that is very different - a pig! Presented in the form of chocolate, figurine, statue, or cookie, the pig represents luck and lust.

February 14 & July 7, Qíngrén jié • Taiwan

World famous for its flowers, Taiwan boasts one of the most romantic celebrations in the world. The country celebrates lovers twice a year, February 14th and July 7th, in a massive display of exchanging flowers. The colors and number of flowers all mean something different, but the most prevalent are red roses, which represent “an only love.” If a woman receives 99 roses, it means “love forever,” but if she receives 108 roses, she’s being asked the all important question: Will you marry me?

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