While we in the U.S. celebrate the festival of St. Valentine with candies in heart shaped boxes, champagne, and rose petals, (or, if you’re un-attached, crazy parties and Galentine’s events with lots of libations), this ancient holiday means many different things around the world. So, armed with a healthy flute of sparkling wine and a box of truffles, we delved into the global approaches to our favorite February holiday of love…
Unlike in the U.S., where men are often the Valentine’s gift-ers not giftees (the idea being, I suppose, that many have a year of making up to do?), in South Korea, women present men with chocolates and other assorted presents. Women celebrate and receive presents of their own on White Day, which is on March 14th. This tradition was actually borrowed from Japanese Valentine’s day celebrations. The most interesting aspect of Korean Valentines day, though, is the reciprocal holiday on April 14th known as Black Day, where lonely singles slurp black noodles known as jjajyangmyeon and commiserate over their lack of partners. We could possibly get behind this tradition in the States…
While the French Valentine’s customs don’t differ too much from American ones, there is one notable town in which celebrations take on even more significance: The village of St. Valentin. Located in France’s Loire region, St. Valentin has decreed itself “The Village of Love.” Between February 12th and 14th, the town is decorated with flowers, and couples celebrate by pinning love notes on the Tree of Vows and watching chocolatiers make heart shaped creations. Unsurprisingly, it’s also an occasion on which many choose to get married.
While they still celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th, the Welsh have their own patron saint of lovers, St. Dwynwen, who is celebrated on January 25th. Named after a 4th century Welsh princess, who was unlucky in love and prayed for others, St Dwynwen’s Day is celebrated with the cards, candlelit dinners, and intricately carved wooden “love spoons.” Sounds like our kind of spoon!
Instead of the bouquet of red roses we associate with February 14th, Danes gift each other pressed white snowdrop flowers and “lover’s cards.” Another popular Danish Valentine’s tradition is the gaekkebrev, a joking poem or letter that men write to women and sign anonymously with dots. If the woman guesses who sent it, she’s awarded an Easter egg a few months later. Valentine’s Day, meet the long game.
Since Carnival, the biggest Brazilian celebration, is often held in the same month, Brazilians generally skip the February 14th festivities, and celebrate Lovers Day (Dia dos Namorados) on June 12th. Chocolates, cards, romantic meals, and gestures are exchanged, in addition to large scale musical concerts and festivals. The next day pays homage to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of marriage.