February 14, better known as Valentine’s Day, is a celebration of love and romance in many regions across the globe. Originally the feast day of at least two different Christian martyrs, it’s become one of the most anticipated holidays of the year.
While hearts, candy, and greeting cards abound almost everywhere, other traditions (and dates) vary from country to country. Keep reading to discover some of these fun customs… maybe you’ll be inspired to adopt a few yourself!
In Japan, women give chocolates to the men in their lives on February 14. Giri-choco (“obligation chocolate”) is given to male friends, coworkers, and acquaintances; honmei-choco (“true love chocolate”) is given to husbands and boyfriends. Men don’t return the favor until March 14, known as “White Day,” when they give gifts of white chocolate, cookies, and flowers.
In this Scandinavian country, people give white flowers known as “snowdrops” to loved ones. Another custom is sending gaekkbrev – love notes or poems (often funny) signed with no name, only dots! If the recipient guesses the sender’s identity, s/he receives an Easter egg in the spring.
Valentine’s Day in Germany is a celebrated mostly by adults, not kids. Couples exchange little pigs (symbolizing love and desire) often holding flowers or lounging on a chocolate heart, and many people give big, heart-shaped ginger cookies iced with a special message.
In a revival of a tradition that dates back to the Roman Lupercalia festival, some women in South Africa pin the names of their boyfriends (or crushes) on their sleeves.
For the Finns, February 14 is Ystävänpäivä (“Friendship Day”), celebrated by couples and singles alike. No hearts, no romance, just gifts, candy, and cards for your besties. It’s the second-biggest card-giving day in the country!
The Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day, celebrated on January 25, is St. Dwynwen’s Day, named for the patron saint of lovers. A long-time tradition is the giving of handcrafted wooden spoons, delicately carved with dates, initials, and special symbols
Here, Valentine’s Day is also known as La Festa degli Innamorati (“The Lovers’ Holiday”). It’s celebrated primarily by couples, and a very popular gift is Baci (“kiss”) chocolates.
In Croatia it’s popular to celebrate the day by giving intricately decorated cookies called licitars. Though made from a simple honey dough, traditionally baked cookies can take over a month to prepare! Some licitars feature a small mirror in the center, so the recipient can see the face that’s so loved by the giver.
Valentine’s Day, known as El Dia del Amor y la Amistad (“Day of Love and Friendship”) in Peru, is a celebration of the love of family and friends. Instead of red roses, Peruvians exchange native, brightly colored orchids.
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