Valentine’s Day Traditions around the World
In the United States, Valentine’s Day is and pretty much always has been all about celebrating romantic love. When Feb. 14 rolls around, we find ourselves running to the closest flower and candy shops, making reservations for the fanciest place in town or scouring the internet for original and exciting gifts for our loved ones.
Outside the states, February 14th can mean something totally different.
Here are are five of our favorite Valentine’s celebrations from around the world:
Philippines: Mass Marriages
Throughout Valentine’s week, thousands of Filipinos celebrate the season of love by getting married. Many, if not most of these weddings, are “mass weddings” and involve hundreds of couples making their vows at the same time and in the same place.
Just last year in the Municipality of Rosario, over 700 couples participated in mass weddings. According to Manila Bulletin, “traditional mass weddings in Rosario and other municipalities and cities are rendered free for needy and unwed couples who are bona fide residents of the areas.” So, the venues, food, gifts, photos and other amenities, including the marriage licenses, are provided by the local government. Pretty sweet deal (pun intended).
Japan: Chocolates and White Day
Ladies take note: On Valentine’s Day in Japan, Western traditions are flipped as the women are the ones expected to do the big spending. As Feb. 14 approaches, women flock to chocolate stores to get gifts for their male dates, friends, coworkers and bosses, spending upwards of 10,000 yen on chocolates alone (Business Insider).
This one-way gift giving is remedied, but women have to wait a whole month for it. On what is known as White Day, men are expected to reciprocate the women’s gestures with a white gift, which comes in the form of everything from a cookies to lingerie.
Denmark: Snowdrops & Gaekkebrev
The Danish have put their own twist on the American celebration of love. Instead of giving their loved ones roses, the people of Denmark give friends and admirers pressed white flowers called snowdrops, along with traditional Valentine’s cards.
Danish men also give their sweethearts gaekkebrev. These anonymous letters written on an intricately cut piece of paper feature a funny poem or rhyme. According to tradition, if the woman who receives the note can guess the sender, she is guaranteed an Easter egg that year. Not sure the connection there, but we support it.
Ghana: Chocolate Day
In 2007, Ghana’s tourism ministry re-branded Valentine’s Day in the hopes of promoting and celebrating Ghana’s contribution to the chocolate industry as one of the largest cocoa exporters in the world. Thanks to those efforts, Feb. 14 is officially the best day of the year, a.k.a. “National Chocolate Day.”
Ghanians and tourists celebrate the holiday through Western traditions, like wearing red and buying flowers and gifts for loved ones, but also by visiting museum exhibits, eating chocolate-themed meals at local restaurants and of course, giving each other chocolate.
Estonia: Friend’s Day
Being single on Valentine’s Day in Estonia can actually be cause for celebration. On Feb. 14, Estonians celebrate Sõbrapäev or “Friend’s Day” in an effort to include everyone — single or otherwise — in happy festivities. Non-romantic relationships are honored as friends and family members exchange gifts and celebrate fraternal love.
Romantic love also plays a role in the holiday. Many couples get married and engaged during the season and singles looking for love can partake in themed activities, like going for a ride with other singles on the “love bus.”