Valentine's Day around the Globe
As Valentine's Day is only around the corner, we see more and more stores filling with chocolate hearts, stuffed animals and flowers. These are the typical Valentine's Day gifts but not every country uses fancy cards and heart shaped anything's to show their partner they love them. Some exchange wooden spoons and pressed flowers and various countries have different traditions around the world that are still used to this day.
As the Carnival is held in February or March each year Brazilians often skip the Valentine’s traditions and instead celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day”, on June 12th. In addition to the usual exchanges of flowers and chocolates there are music festivals held and performances throughout the country. It isn’t just couples who celebrate this day of love but family and friends too. The following day is Saint Anthony’s Day who is the patron saint of marriage. On this day, single Brazilian women perform various rituals called “simpatias” in hopes that St. Anthony will find them a husband.
In China instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day they celebrate the Seventh Night Festival or Qixi which falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month each month year. According to Chinese myths, Zhinu who was a heavenly king’s daughter and Niulang, a poor cattleman, fell in love, married and had a set of twins. When Zhinu’s father found out he sent his queen to bring Zhinu back to the stars. After hearing the cries of Niuland and their children, Zhinu’s father allowed them to meet once a year on Qixi.
It is only in more recent years that Denmark celebrates Valentine’s Day, but they do it with a Danish twist. Instead of using roses Danish people exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops. Men also give women “gaekkebrev”, a "joking letter" which includes a funny poem written on intricately cut paper and signed only with anonymous dots. If a woman who receives the “gaekkebrev” can correctly guess the sender, she earns herself an Easter egg later that year.
On the day before Valentine’s Day in England, women used to place five bay leaves on their pillows, one at each corner and one in the centre, to bring dreams of their future husbands. In Norfolk, Jack Valentine was the Santa of Valentine’s Day. Children would wait to hear Jack Valentine knock at their doors, he was known to leave candies and small presents at their door.
France, and particularly Paris are considered on of the most romantic places in the world. It has been celebrating Valentine’s Day for a very long time. It’s said that the first Valentine’s Day card was given in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London. That goes all the way back to 1415.
Another traditional Valentine's Day event in France was the loterie d'amour, or "drawing for love." Men and women would fill houses that faced one another, and then take turns calling out to one another and pairing off. Men who didn’t like their match could simply leave a woman for another woman. The women left unmatched gathered afterward for a bonfire.
At the bonfire, women burned pictures of the men who wronged them and hurled swears and insults at the opposite sex. The event became so uncontrollable that the French government eventually banned the tradition all together.
If your loved one is a chocoholic, look to Ghana for inspiration. This nation gifts their better halves sumptuous lashings of chocolate each and every Valentine’s Day, in the shape of tailor-made hampers to boxes of handmade chocolate creations. This should come as little surprise, as they’re one of the world’s most celebrated cocoa bean producers. With this in mind, the national government decided to use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to get the citizens devouring even more chocolate, by giving the 14th February the title National Chocolate Day.
In Italy they often celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic dinner. They are world renowned for their fantastic food so what better way to do so. Italians celebrated Valentine’s Day as a Spring Festival. Young people used gather outside in gardens to enjoy poetry and music before taking a stroll with their beloved.
Another Italian Valentines tradition was for unmarried girls to wake up before dawn and look for their future husbands. They believed that the first man a woman saw on Valentine’s Day was the man she would end up with and marry within the year. Nowadays Italians celebrate Valentine’s Day with gifts such as small, chocolate covered hazelnuts wrapped with a romantic quote printed in four languages.
8. South Africa
In South Africa, it is less about Valentine’s Day cards and more about the people they love. It is tradition in South Africa to literally wear your heart on your sleeve. This tradition is named Lupercalia and involved pinning the name of the person you fancy to your sleeve for everyone to see. This ancient Roman tradition is known to prompt interest, it is how South African men learn of their secret admirers.