With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, stores are flooded with candy hearts, chocolates and stuffed animals. And while North Americas shower their loved ones this way, other countries around the world declare their love differently.
Did you know that in Japan, it’s the women who give men gifts on Valentine’s Day? In the following infographic by Flower Card, they explore how 14 countries around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Most people in England exchange gifts with their loved ones. However, in Norfolk, Jack Valentine acts as a Santa of sorts for Valentine’s Day. Children anxiously wait to hear Jack Valentine knock at their doors. And although they don’t catch a glimpse of Old Father Valentine, children enjoy the candies and small gifts left on their porches.
Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day, people in Wales celebrate Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, on January 25th. A traditional romantic Welsh gift is a love spoon. As early as the 17th century, Welsh men carved intricate wooden spoons as a token of affection for the one they loved. Patterns and symbols were carved into these love spoons, each signifying a different meaning.
With a reputation as the most romantic destinations in the world, it’s little wonder France has long celebrated Valentine’s Day. An event called loterie d’amour, or “drawing for love,” once saw men and women filling houses that faced one another. They would then take turns calling out to one another and pairing off. Men who weren’t satisfied with their match could simply leave a woman for another. Women who were left unmatched gathered afterward for a bonfire where they burned pictures of the men who wronged them and hurled swears and insults. The event became so uncontrollable that the French government eventually banned the tradition all together.
The equivalent to Valentine’s Day in China is Qixi, or the Seventh Night Festival, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year. According to Chinese lore, Zhinu, a heavenly king’s daughter, and Niulang, a poor cowherd, fell in love, married and had twins. When Zhinu’s father learned of their marriage, he sent his queen to bring Zhinu back to the stars. Upon hearing the cries of Niulang and the children, the king allowed Zhinu and Niulang to meet once a year on Qixi.
In Germany, pigs are a symbol of luck and lust. Therefore, you can find little pigs offering flowers, or others laying down on chocolate hearts in rather provocative postures. And for extra luck with the love one or the would be Valentine, there are some pigs holding a 4 leaves clover while climbing a little ladder on a heart.
Finland & Estonia
Valentine’s Day tradition in these two countries revolves around friendship rather than love. Finnish and Estonian people exchange gifts like flowers, greeting cards, and gift basket.
In Bulgaria you can decide to celebrate Saint Valentine and exchange gifts and messages of love. Or if you’re single, you can celebrate Saint Trifon Zarezan, the patron saint of vine growing and wine producing. Single people in Bulgaria have been known to knock back a couple glasses of wine.
The Japanese celebrate in a very unique style; the women present gifts to men. There’s a strong tradition of women giving chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day in Japan. However, there are two types of chocolates you can give: “Giri-choco” (obligation chocolate) for friends, colleagues, bosses, and close male friends, and “Honmei-choco” for the one you love.
Brazilians skip February 14th celebrations and instead celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day,” on June 12th. Gift giving isn’t limited to couples, though. In Brazil, people celebrate this day of love by exchanging gifts and sharing dinner with friends and relatives, too. The following day is Saint Anthony’s Day, honouring the patron saint of marriage, where single women perform rituals in hopes he’ll bring them a husband.
It’s customary for women in South Africa to wear their hearts on their sleeves on February 14th. Women pin the names of their love interest on their shirtsleeves; an ancient Roman tradition. In some cases, this is how South African men learn of their secret admirers.
Here it is known as National Chocolate Day. This is to celebrate Ghana’s contribution to chocolate making and encourage tourism.
One tradition has swept the country and led to thousands of couples sharing a wedding day on February 14th. Mass wedding ceremonies have gained popularity in the Philippines in recent years. This has lead to hundreds of couples gathering in public areas around the country to get married or renew their vows en masse.
Valentine’s Day is banned in this country, because public displays of affection are taboo. Doing so is punishable by the law, but there is still a black market for red roses.
Though the holiday isn’t accepted everywhere in Iraq, the country has developed some of its own traditions. Red symbols of Valentine’s Day are marked as people walking will see giant teddy bears, crimson roses, balloons and scarlet cushioned hearts.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.