Love Around the World: How Different Cultures Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Hard to believe Valentine’ Day is right around the corner: it seems like we just finished with the holiday season in December and already we’re expected to purchase gifts again for the ones we love! Not all cultures celebrate Valentine’s Day in the same way, if at all, but general expressions of love are very similar around the world.

Denmark

Valentine’s Day is pretty much a new holiday in this country, as it wasn’t really practiced there till about the early 1990’s. Whereas in the States, lovers exchange roses, in Denmark they exchange pressed white flowers known as snowdrops. Sweethearts give each other “lover’s cards”, originating from the tradition of giving transparent cards revealing a picture of the giver presenting the recipient with a gift.

Men also like to give their ladies what’s called a “joking letter”, which is basically a funny poem or rhyme presented on fancy paper. Thing is, the men don’t sign their names: they use the mysterious “…” instead. If the woman correctly guesses who sent the letter, she will be treated to an Easter egg come spring.

France

Nowhere is love more celebrated than in France, a romantic destination for lovers.  France has been credited with producing the first Valentine’s Day card: in 1415, Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while spending time as a prisoner in the Tower of London. Sending and receiving cards is still a tradition that remains strong today.

South Korea

On February 14th, women are the gift givers, showering their men with anything from chocolate to candies to flowers. March 14th is called White Day, and this is when men give women gifts, as well as chocolates and flowers. Black Day is held on April 14th, where singles celebrate their solitary state by feasting on dark bowls of jajangmyeon (black bean-paste noodles).

England

The night before Valentine’s Day, single women set five bay leaves on their pillows to spur on dreams of a future husband. In Norfolk, Jack Valentine leaves candies and small gifts on porches for children to find and enjoy. Think Santa but on a much smaller scale.

Philippines

The biggest tradition in the Philippines is for mass groups of people to gather in large public places, such as malls and parks, to get married or renew their vows.

Italy

Italians exchange Baci Perugina — small, chocolate-covered hazelnuts that include a wrapped romantic saying in 4 languages.

South Africa

Valentine’s Day is celebrated here with festivals, parades and flowers. Women literally wear their hearts on their sleeves, pinning the names of their lovers or their crushes on their clothing.

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