Valentine’s Day is upon us. Stores in the UK are overflowing with flowers, cards and chocolates. But did you know that different nationalities celebrate Valentine’s in many weird and wonderful ways? Here’s a look at 10 Valentine’s Day traditions around the world.
1. South Korea
In South Korea, women give chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day. If he likes her, he must give her a gift in return on March 14th, known as White Day. If the lady doesn’t get anything back, then on April 14th – called Black Day – she must go to a restaurant, order black noodles and lament her bad luck in love.
Did you know that the English were the inventors of the heart-shaped chocolate box? In the 19th century, John Cadbury, Britain’s oldest and most famous chocolate manufacturer, wanted to boost chocolate sales between Christmas and Easter. So he invented a heart-shaped choccy box. It soon became a hit, and has since been copied by chocolatiers everywhere.
John Cadbury invented the heart shaped chocolate box in the 19th century
Originally, Valentine’s Day was a Roman spring festival of love. On that day, people would take romantic strolls and gather together to read love poetry. Single girls believed they would marry the first man they saw that morning. Today in Italy, people gift each other Baci Perugina, a chocolate-covered hazelnut wrapped in a romantic quote.
The Welsh don’t celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, because they have their own patron saint of lovers, St. Dwynwen. The Welsh holiday of love falls on January 25th. A customary St. Dwynden gift is a “love spoon”, a Welsh tradition dating back to the 1600’s. The intricately carved wooden spoons often include symbols like horseshoes for luck or hearts for love.
Welsh love spoons are gifted on St. Dwynwen’s Day on 25th January
The Brazilian’s also hold their Día Dos Namorados (Lover’s Day) on a different day, on 12th June. On the evening before, it’s customary for people to perform love spells called simpatías. For example, in order to get someone to fall in love with you, you must write his or her name on a blue ribbon and put it under your pillow. Then before going to bed, you must look up to the sky, count seven stars, and pray for Saint Valentine to make the person fall in love with you.
In the USA, greeting cards rule the roost when it comes to Valentine’s gifts – much more than chocolates or flowers. The Americans send each other a staggering 190 million Valentine’s cards each February. In US schools, sending anonymous Valentine’s cards is also a huge tradition, with many schools putting up special Valentine’s post boxes in classrooms.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated by many schools in USA with kids giving each other anonymous cards
The Germans, rather strangely, have pictures of pigs on their Valentine’s cards. That’s because pigs symbolise luck and lust in Germany. Some cards are very romantic, with piglets frolicking alongside hearts and four-leaved clovers. But others can be a little more raunchy, with pigs posing in rather provocative postures!
In Finland, February 14th is called ystävänpäivä, and it actually means Friendship Day. So it isn’t a romantic holiday, but rather a day for remembering your friends. The Finns are also big on giving each other greeting cards on the day. But instead of romantic themes, Finnish Valentine’s cards portray the importance of friendship.
Finland celebrates friendship instead of love on 14th February
France used to have a curious Valentine’s custom, which was banned in the 1950’s. It consisted of young men and women grouping together in houses that faced each other across a street. They would call and shout at each other, until couples paired off. However, if the man didn’t like the woman, he’d leave her standing in the street. The girls who were rejected would then burn the men’s photographs on a bonfire in the street. The custom got so out of hand that it was eventually outlawed by the French government.
The Danes, who love a joke, have given the holiday of love a sweet but humorous twist. Rather than red roses, men send women funny, anonymous love letters. They’re usually written as rhyming poems on intricately cut pieces of paper, and signed only with three dots… If the lady can guess who her Valentine is, then later in the spring the man has to buy her a chocolate Easter egg.
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