How Couples Celebrate Valentine’s Day Around the World

How Couples Celebrate Valentine’s Day Around the World

From wooden spoons to mass weddings, we take a look at how Valentine’s Day is commemorated in different parts of the world.

We all have a clear and telling image of how Valentine’s Day is supposed to look like – roses, chocolates and adorable plush bears. However, not every country chooses to declare their love in this manner. We take a look at how 7 countries celebrate love and friendship in their own special ways.

1. South Africa

Image credit: Anaya Katlego

Who says wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve sounds cliché? In South Africa, women take this figurative expression literally. It is customary for them to pin the names of their love interests on their shirtsleeves during Valentine’s Day. 

In certain cases, that’s how South African men become aware of their secret admirers and we can only hope that the blossoming of a new love will ensue.

2. Brazil

Image credit: Peggy Cortez 

While Valentine’s Day is quintessentially celebrated on 14th February, Brazilians give it a miss and instead, commemorate Dia dos Namorados, or “Day of the Enamoured,” on 12th June. 

The essence of gift-changing is upheld on this day, but it isn’t limited to just lovers. Bestowing gifts to friends and family alike is prevalent throughout the country, which will be bustling with parades and carnivals to mark the significant day.

The following day is Saint Anthony’s Day, which honours the patron saint of marriage. On this day, single women perform rituals called simpatias. They would hang images of St. Anthony upside down in hopes that he would grace them with a husband.

3. The Philippines

On the annual day of love, hundreds of Filipino couples tie the knot in mass weddings organised and fully sponsored by the local government. 

From the venue to a sumptuous wedding banquet, the lovestruck couple doesn’t need to fork out a single peso, should they partake in the mass nuptials. The groom just has to turn up in an impeccable suit, the bride in a beautiful white gown and they can be joined in matrimony.

4. South Korea

Image credit: Joanna Kosinska

Do you believe men are always expected to make the first move? On Valentine’s Day in South Korea, women banish that hackneyed idea and pursue their men for a change, by spoiling them rotten with gifts!

The tables turn exactly a month later. On 14th March, also known as White Day, where men return the favour and prove their unyielding love by presenting expensive white chocolates, marshmallows or even white lingerie to their female counterparts. 

What about those forlorn individuals? Bachelors and spinsters congregate to mourn their state of solitude on April 14th (Black Day) by slurping dark bowls of jajangmyeon, or black bean-paste noodles.

5. France

Image credit: Fabrizio Verrecchia

Paris is synonymous with all things romantic and it comes as no surprise that the French have long observed the day dedicated to lovers.

Word has it that the ubiquitous Valentine’s Day greeting originated in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, penned a poem to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. He used the word ‘Valentine’ as a term of endearment for his beloved wife. It is simply tragic to learn that he was never able to witness his wife’s reaction to the letter.

Une loterie d’amour is an old Valentine’s Day tradition that is now forbidden in France. It saw single men and women entering houses facing one another and proclaiming the names of their chosen partners until they are paired off. So what happened when a man changed his mind about his match? He would simply abandon her for another. The poor unmatched ladies would gather for a bonfire afterwards where they burned photos of the men who ditched them and hurl profanities. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

6. China

Image credit : Qixi Festival

Falling on the 7th day of the 7th Lunar month, Qixi is referred to as the Chinese Valentine’s Day. It celebrates a nearly 2,000-year-old fairy tale. 

The story goes like this: Zhi Nu, a goddess renowned for her weaving skills, went to the mortal world and met a cow herder named Niu Lang. They fell in love and got married, but the two lovebirds incurred the wrath of Zhi Nu’s mother who brought her daughter back to heaven. She was hell-bent on separating them and pulled out all the stops to keep them apart. Eventually moved by their unwavering love, Zhi Nu’s mother allowed the two to meet on a bridge on the 7th day of the 7th Lunar month every year.

Traditionally, Chinese women would worship Zhi Nu by displaying their meticulous needlework as offerings and gazing at the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere. They would pray for a suitable companion and perpetual bliss. These days it is observed in the same manner as the modern Valentine’s Day we are all familiar with.

7. Wales

Image credit: Hayley Finn

Imagine receiving a wooden spoon as a Valentine’s Day gift? It doesn’t exactly scream fervour, but in Wales, that’s what you will receive if your sweetheart really loves you. ‘Lovespoons’ are carved with intricate patterns and symbols; anything from horseshoes to wheels, each signifying a different meaning. It is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years ago. Though the original intent was purely utilitarian, a little (love)spooning won’t hurt now!

The Welsh also celebrate Saint Dwynwen, their patron saint of lovers, on January 25th instead of the usual Valentine’s Day.

There you have it, the different ways people celebrate Valentine’s Day across the world. While traditions vary from country to country, love is so special that it should always be celebrated – in all its uniqueness and glory.

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Ifah Sakinah
Ifah Sakinah

Sakinah has a discerning palate and an innate desire to satisfy her inner curiosity. While she hasn't been everywhere, it's definitely on her list.


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