Eight Unusual Valentine’s Day Traditions Around the World

February 14, 2023

Have you ever wondered how other countries celebrate Valentine's Day? Here's eight unusual traditions from around the world.

Japan

Although a relatively new holiday in the country, Japan has developed its own unique traditions for Valentine’s Day, which can be traced back to confectionary adverts aimed at foreign citizens in the 1930s.

Japanese women are expected to gift the following chocolate on Valentine’s Day depending on the kind of relationship they have with the recipient:

  • Giri-choco – Roughly translated as ‘obligation chocolate’, this gift is intended as a ‘debt of gratitude’ and should be given to male friends, bosses, family members or work colleagues.
  • Honmei-choco – These sweet treats are often hand-made for an extra personal touch and given exclusively to a significant other, whether a boyfriend or husband.
  • Jibun-choco – Chocolate you buy and give to yourself as a little treat.
  • Tomo-choco – Typically expensive and elaborate chocolate gifted between female friends.
Alternative Description

White Day in Japan is celebrated a month later, on March 14. It was established when the Japanese National Confectionery Industry Association successfully campaigned to implement a ‘reply day’ for men to reciprocate the presents they received from women on St Valentine’s. The day was so named because the colour white is considered a symbol of purity and is closely associated with an innocent kind of teen love in Japanese culture. On White Day, men are expected to present girls with gifts roughly two or three times the value of what they received a month earlier.

South Korea

Like Japan, on Valentine's Day in Korea women give chocolate to men as a sign of affection. Traditionally, men that receive these gifts will give a gift in return the following month on White Day. However, they also have ‘Black Day’ on April 14 where people who don’t have partners get together and celebrate the fact that they’re single by eating a special noodle dish, jajangmyeon, cooked in black sauce.

Brazil

Brazil’s Valentine’s Day is called Dia dos Namorados (“Lovers’ Day” or “Sweethearts Day”) but is not celebrated on February 14 as it usually falls close to Carnival Week, one of the biggest events in the country. Instead, the Dia dos Namorados is celebrated on June 12 because of its proximity to St Anthony’s Day on June 13. Single women may seek the guidance of St Anthony so that they can find a suitable husband. One such custom involves dipping an image of St Anthony in water until the right partner walks into the woman’s life to propose. Other examples include:

Denmark

The giving of white flowers known as ‘snowdrops’ to both lovers and friends is popular in Denmark. Another popular tradition of love in Denmark is the writing of gaekkebrev – a romantic poem or a love note. The sender of the gaekkebrev signs the message with dots instead of his name. The recipient of the gaekkebrev must guess who the sender is. She will be rewarded with an Easter egg later in the year if she guesses correctly.

Czech Republic

Late evening, on the first of May—The twilight May—the time of love,” is the first verse from Karel Hynek Mácha’s romantic poem called “May”. Although Czechs have celebrated May 1st as a day of love for centuries, Mácha made this habit even more popular thanks to his poem. Custom suggests that if you are in the Czech Republic on 1 May you should kiss your love under a blossoming cherry tree or birch tree.

Wales

St Dwynwen (Santes Dwynwen) was a fourth century Welsh princess who lived in what is now the Brecon Beacons National Park. Dwynwen was rather unlucky in love, so she became a nun. She prayed for true lovers to have better luck than she did. St Dwynwen’s Day (or Dydd Santes Dwynwen in Welsh) is celebrated on January 25 every year. Recent years have seen an increase amongst people in Wales celebrating St Dwynwen's Day by exchanging gifts such as carved love spoons.

Argentina

In Argentina, the country of tango and passion, ‘Día de los Enamorados’ (Valentine’s Day) is a low-key affair. However, this is not the only day of the year dedicated to showing love and affection. Argentineans also celebrate ‘Semana de la Dulzura’ (Sweetness Week) from the 1–7 July and unsurprisingly, the day was invented by the largest Argentinean sweet manufacturer, Arcor, and the Association of Candy Distributors. It's a full week where Argentineans give sweets, chocolates, alfajores, gummies and more to friends, partners and family members.

The Philippines

Mass Valentine’s Day marriages where hundreds of couples say “I do” at the same time have become all the rage in recent years, easily making February 14 the most popular wedding anniversary in the Philippines.

Ever since the government and a toothpaste brand started the event in 2004, Filipino couples have also been gathering by the hundreds to compete for a world record: the most people lip locking simultaneously. Held at shopping malls throughout the Philippines, the festival starts at midnight when everyone kisses at once.

Holidays and cultural symbols can convey different meanings in different cultures. Valentine's Day is just one example. To learn more about working across cultures effectively, please contact us to discuss our programmes.

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