As we celebrate Valentine’s Day in the U.S. with mushy cards, candy hearts, and boxes of chocolate, World Learning thought it would be fun to take a look at how other countries mark the holiday — or express love on their own special days.
Five other countries honor love and friendship on Valentine’s Day, February 14:
Celebrating Valentine’s Day in the Philippines is similar to the U.S. and other western countries with one twist: mass wedding ceremonies take place around the country in which hundreds of couples gather in public areas like malls and parks to take or renew their marriage vows.
Starting in the 1990s, this Nordic country has embraced February 14 as a day of love. But instead of traditional red roses, friends and couples exchange pressed white flowers called “snowdrops.” In addition to cards professing love, men also send women gaekkebrev, a “joking letter” with a funny poem or rhyme written on intricately cut paper and signed only with anonymous dots. If a woman who receives the gaekkebrev can correctly guess the sender, she’s is awarded with an Easter egg in the spring.
Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday for young couples in South Korea kicking off rituals extending across several months. On February 14, women woo their men with flowers and chocolate. One month later, on March 14, men reciprocate by giving chocolates, flowers, and a special gift to their sweeties for White Day. A third holiday called Black Day is observed on April 14, when singles lament their solo status by eating jajangmyeon, black bean paste noodles.
Taking a more communal approach, Mexicans mark Valentine’s Day by celebrating their love with the community. Officially known as El Dia del Amor y Amistad, “Day of Love and Friendship” to those south of the border, February 14 is a time when women bake sweets for their friends and neighbors and men buy balloons and chocolate. Those celebrating say, “Te amo!” (to your lover) and “Te quiero!” (to your friends).
In addition to the usual tokens of love, women in South Africa literally wear their hearts on their sleeves on February 14 by pinning the names of their love interests on their shirtsleeves so that men know they have secret or not-so-secret admirers.
These five countries celebrate love on a day other than Valentine’s Day:
June 12 is “Dia dos enamorados” or “Lovers day,” when Brazilians exchange chocolates, flowers, and cards, while musical performances are held throughout cities and towns, bringing together couples and families from all walks of life. The following day is St. Anthony’s Day, honoring the patron saint of marriage, during which single women perform rituals in order to find a good husband or boyfriend. In addition to prayer on the eve of the holiday, one might conceal a love letter in pot of basil to pass to a prospective suitor.
The Welsh celebrate a 16th century tradition called St. Dwynwen’s Day on February 25. St. Dwynwen is the patron saint of love. Couples exchange carved wooden spoons to signify their love for each other. As the Welsh say: Rwy’n dy garu di, I love you.
On February 24, young couples in Romania exchange spring flowers for a holiday called Dragobete, named for a mythic figure. The traditional lover’s day also celebrates the end of winter and the start of spring and rebirth. Lovers who meet on this day are believed to be blessed with a strong union that will keep them together.
Tu’B’av is a modern-day celebration of love with ancient Jewish roots as a matchmaking day for unmarried women. Often called the “Jewish Day of Love,” this year the holiday starts at sundown on August 15 with singing and dancing festivals around the country. It’s also become a popular day for weddings.
Qixi, or the Seventh Night Festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year (August 7 this year). It is based on a romantic legend about a weaver girl, Zhinu, and a poor ox herd named Niulang, who fell in love, married, and had twins. The girl’s father, a heavenly king, objected and sent his daughter back to the stars. The grief of Niulang and the children was so great, the king allowed the lovers to meet once a year on Qixi. At night, people gaze at the sky to try to see the annual reunion of these star-crossed lovers.