Love makes the world go round, so the saying goes…and people in different countries have different ways of declaring their undying devotion. From literally wearing your heart on your sleeve to sending pressed white flowers to the object of your affections, you will experience a wide range of Valentine’s Day traditions when moving abroad for international relocation.
Just as we looked at holiday foods from around the world, let’s have a look at Valentine’s Day traditions from 10 different countries you might be moving overseas to:
Japanese Valentine’s tradition switches traditional gender roles, with women presenting chocolates – “Giri Choco” – to men instead of vice versa. This does not necessarily have a romantic association as they’re given to male friends, colleagues or even bosses. Many women will also make their own chocolate to give as gifts. If they want to show another kind of “affection” they will include a handmade gift plus the “Honmei Choco”. But the men have to reciprocate a month later on March 14th, by returning the gift with white chocolates and more…hence that day is called “White Day”.
An increasingly popular tradition in the Philippines is a mass wedding celebration, which brings together hundreds of couples in large, open spaces to be married in a colossal public ceremony. Around 8,000 couples were married during Valentine’s Day mass wedding ceremonies in 2014.
3. South Africa
Young women in South Africa are known to celebrate Valentine’s Day by pinning the name of their sweetheart to their sleeve, in a tradition known as “Lupercalia”, in reference to the ancient Roman fertility festival that preceded Valentine’s Day.
In some cases, this is how South African men learn of their secret admirers.
In Estonia, Valentine’s Day is called “Friend’s Day” so that single people are not left out of the festivities. While streets may still be decorated with hearts and other Valentine’s symbols, there is also an emphasis on non-romantic love, with friends and family members exchanging presents on the holiday. If you’re still looking for romance, singles can also ride on a special “love bus” on the holiday.
Although Valentine’s Day is a relatively new holiday in Denmark (since the early 1990’s), the country has embraced February 14th with a Danish flair. Rather than roses, friends and sweethearts exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops.
Another popular Danish Valentine’s Day tradition is men giving women “gaekkebrev”, a “joking letter” consisting of a funny poem or rhyme written on intricately cut paper and signed only with anonymous dots. If the recipient of the “gaekkebrev” can correctly guess the sender, she earns herself an Easter egg later that year.
Source: Nillerdk via Wikimedia Commons
A famous French Valentine’s Day tradition was called loterie d’amour, or “drawing for love.” Men and women would take turns calling out to one another and pairing off. Men who ended up feeling unsatisfied from their partner could leave her for another woman. The single women gathered afterward for a bonfire. During the bonfire, the single ladies burned pictures of the men who wronged them and yelled profanities and insults at men. The tradition became so out of control that the French government eventually had to ban it.
The celebration for Valentine’s Day in Germany is popular among the locals, but is not especially commercial. Lovers will exchange not only chocolates, flowers, and heart shaped gifts, but … a pig which represents luck and lust, and can be given in picture form, as a miniature statue, or in chocolate. Also, Germans prepare big ginger cookies in heart shapes that contain romantic phrases and messages like “Ich liebe dich” – “I love you”.
8. South Korea
Valentine’s Day is actually celebrated monthly from February through April. Similar to Japan, the gift-giving starts on February 14th, when women woo their men with chocolates, candies and flowers.
On March 14th, there’s a turnaround, when men not only shower their sweethearts with chocolates and flowers, but add a gift as well “White Day”. However, there is a third tradition for single people: Black Day. On April 14th, people without partners mourn their single status by eating bowls of jajangmyeon, or black bean paste noodles.
Taiwan, world famous for its flowers, boasts the most romantic celebration in the world – twice a year: February 14th and also on July 7th. Men are expected to give bouquets of flowers to their beloveds. According to Taiwanese tradition, the color and number of flowers will represent an important message: red roses represent “an only love”, 99 roses express “love forever”, and 108 signifies popping the question: “Will you marry me?”
Finns celebrate “Ystävänpäivä” (“Friendship Day”) by giving cards, flowers, candy, and jewelry to friends and relatives. Finns have also made “Kalakukko”, a dish from the Savo region, the traditional Valentine’s dish. Literally meaning “fishrooster”. It is a fish, bones and all, wrapped in pork fat enclosed in a big wad of rye dough. When baked it looks like a typical loaf of rye bread. The bones of the fish soften during the baking process and the filling becomes moist from the fat and fish juices.
The day is celebrated by lovers as well as friends and there is a general atmosphere of enjoyment and merry-making in the air. Everyone is dressed for the occasion, with girls especially dressing in a very elaborate manner, to impress their partners. Gifts like chocolates, flowers and cards are given with efforts to pamper sweethearts with candlelight dinners, dancing and romantic music.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a variety of was throughout the world! How is it celebrated where you live or where you are moving to? Tell us in the comments!