Valentine traditions from around the world
January 31, 2017
On February 14 we celebrate Valentine’s Day in the United States, but not every country celebrates this day the same way. In the US, flowers and candy are traditional gestures we give to the ones we love, but in other countries, they have different ways to show their affections. Here’s a look at how five countries celebrate their traditions around the world on Valentine’s Day.
Denmark recently made Valentine’s Day a holiday, since the early 1990s according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Instead of roses, friends and lovers exchange pressed white flowers called “snowdrops.” Men also write a funny letter to their special someone called a Gaekkebrev. If the author of the anonymous letter is guessed correctly, an Easter egg (confectionary usually) is given to her later in the year. If guessed incorrectly, the sender of the Gaekkebrev is owed an egg.
Due to the timing of the annual Carnival celebration, “Dia dos Namorados” (known as lovers-day) is recognized on June 12 instead of February 14. This day isn’t meant just for lovers, friends and family are also included in exchanging gifts and sharing dinner. The following day is Saint Anthony’s Day, which honors the patron saint of marriage. Single women perform rituals called “Simpatias” in hope that St. Anthony will bring them a husband.
Similar to the US, South Africa celebrates Valentine’s Day with flowers, festivals, and other tokens of love. The women in S. Africa wear their hearts on their sleeve, they pin the name of their love interest to their shirt sleeve. This dates back to ancient Roman traditions known as Lupercalia, which allows for some S. African men to learn of their secret admirers.
Although traditions like giving flowers and chocolates to love interests are similar to the US, a tradition that has gained popularity in the Philippines are mass weddings. Hundreds of couples gather at public areas to say (or renew) their vows en masse, sharing a wedding anniversary of February 14.
England has its own unique traditions to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Women used to place five bay leaves on their pillows, one at each corner and one in the center, which brings dreams of their future husbands. In the region of Norfolk, Jack Valentine is similar to Santa Claus, bringing children candies and small gifts which are left on the porch of their homes. The children anxiously wait to hear a knock on the door which signifies a visit from Jack Valentine.