In honor of Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how other countries celebrate the “love” holiday. Legend has it that Saint Valentine, a Christian martyr who died in Rome on February 14th, left a note for the jailer’s daughter, which simply read “Your Valentine.” Centuries later, Western cultures still embrace the day and celebrate it in their own distinctive ways.
In America, the card and message of love is still a popular choice to send along with flowers, chocolates and red or pink hearts, but what are other traditions around the world? Here are a few ideas to make Valentine’s Day extra special this year:
England: In a nation rich with literature, many people include written verse from one of the countless famous sonnets and poems penned by one of its romantic authors. Another custom is having children sing special songs, who then receive gifts of fruit, candy or money. In some areas, there even exists a traditional recipe for a Valentine Bun, which is baked using caraway seeds, plums and/or raisins.
Japan: Typically, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on two separate days: February 14 and March 14. On February 14, women give the special men in their lives chocolates–usually homemade because Japanese females believe that store-bought chocolate is not a gift of true-love. Kiri-choco chocolate is for friends and family while hon-mei is for boyfriends and spouses. March 14th or “White Day” is a day when many men reciprocate these sentiments by giving women tokens of their love or even declaring their love for the first time.
Denmark: The Danish have a special Valentine Day’s card known as a lover’s card, which comes in transparent form, and when the card is held up to the light it shows a picture of a lover handing his love a gift. Transparent or not, lover’s cards often include pressed white flowers inside called snowdrops. Some people send love notes called gaekkebrev which are also referred to as joking letters. On the gaekkebrev, the sender signs his or her name in dots and if the receiver guesses the correct name then the sender will get a candy egg at Easter time.
Brazil: Not going to be with your loved one on February 14th? You can wait a few months and celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Day of the enamored”. June 12th is when the Brazilian couples exchange gifts such as chocolates, cards and usually a flower bouquet. This day is chosen because it is the day before the Saint Anthony’s day, known there as the marriage saint, when many single women are searching for a boyfriend or a husband.