Various countries throughout the world celebrate love on Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s in honor of romantic love or the love shared between friends and family, this holiday brings forth all sorts of traditions to commemorate it.
The history of Valentine’s Day is said to have originated in ancient Rome. St. Valentine’s was a priest who performed marriages in secret as it was banned at the time. When the emperor heard about his actions, he was sentenced to jail and later executed on February 14th, when Valentine’s Day is now celebrated.
However, it didn’t just begin from there. During mid-February, the Romans also celebrated another festival that signaled the start of spring. Later, the pope of the church replaced this festival with a holiday to also honor the deeds of St. Valentine.
On this holiday, couples are known to exchange gifts like flowers and chocolate as well as cards to proclaim their love. There are countries, though, where the practice extends beyond the usual. Here are some unique Valentine’s Day traditions from countries around the world.
Although Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday in the UK, Wales has another special holiday to celebrate love: Dydd Santes Dwynwen or St. Dwynwen’s Day which happens every 25th of January. There are several versions of St. Dwynwen’s story but they end with her devoting herself to God and becoming known as the Welsh saint of love. In the past, Welsh men would carve intricate wooden spoons—called lovespoons—to gift to their beloved. The spoon is carved with various designs, each one full of symbolism for what they hope for their relationship: luck, eventual marriage, number of children, etc. It was also a way for the man to demonstrate his carving skills.
But don’t expect lovespoons everywhere in Wales. The practice is now mostly done by skilled craftspeople and spoons are bought to be given as gifts for weddings or holidays. Some people even buy spoons as souvenirs or as decorations for their home.
People all expect Valentine’s Day to be a romantic day for lovers. But in the scenic wonder of a country that is Finland, people don’t recognize romance on February 14. Known as Ystävänpäivä, or Friend’s Day, the day is dedicated to the love people share with their friends. It has all the red hearts, flowers, and chocolate of what most expect from Valentine’s Day, but they’re shared with beloved friends to show how much they’re appreciated.
Next Valentine’s Day, it might be a good idea to also show your friends how much you love them, whether through a simple card or even going on a trip together.
Exchanging More than Chocolate
Chocolate is one of the most popular gifts on Valentine’s Day. But in some Asian countries, this exchange doesn’t just happen in February. What began as a marketing ploy to sell more candies has grown to become a huge holiday in many East Asian countries as well as parts of Southeast Asia. White Day, which takes place every March 14, began in Japan in 1978 as a marketing campaign.
Every February 14, women present chocolate to male colleagues, friends, and lovers. The quality of the chocolate may vary—from store-bought treats to homemade confections. One month later, men who received chocolate are expected to return the favor. But what they gift back isn’t just limited to chocolate. They can give a variety of presents like flowers, jewelry, clothing, and more.
Cards are everywhere on Valentine’s Day. Sometimes, children even make them in school to exchange with friends and classmates. In Denmark, though, this letter-giving tradition takes a different turn.
On Valentine’s Day, men write gaekkebrev. These are funny rhymes or poems written on hand-cut paper usually made by children during Easter. But every February, men give gaekkebrev to their loved ones and sign it with dots representing each letter of their name. The women who receive these letters, in turn, must guess who sent them. If they guess correctly, the women earn a candy easter egg a few months later. If they guess wrong, they owe the sender, who reveals his identity afterward, an easter egg for the year.
In some Latin American countries, Valentine’s Day is also a day to celebrate friendship. Some countries know it as Día del Amor y la Amistad or Day of Love and Friendship. It’s a day people spend with family and friends and do deeds that show their appreciation for their love.
Countries in Central America also play a game called Amigo Secreto (Secret Friend), which is similar to the Christmastime game of Secret Santa. Each person in a group would write their name on a piece of paper and put it into a bag. Then everyone picks a name and the person they picked is their amigo. Without revealing whose name they have, they must find a gift to give that person.
This coming Valentine’s Day, think about what kind of experience you want to have with your loved ones. You don’t have to play games or send them gifts, but maybe a simple romantic getaway from KKday would be perfect for the holiday.
*Featured image from KPG_Payless on Shutterstock