If you live in the UK or the US, this weekend you may have found it almost impossible not to be swept up in the Valentine’s Day hype. You had only to veer within ten paces of a shop or supermarket to have become accosted with pink hearts, balloons and chocolate lollipops, all in the name of Love. Yes, Valentine’s Day has become quite an occasion in the Western World, for celebrating everything from love, to lust to friendship, and every shade between. But how did the rest of the world celebrate? Here, we take a look at five of the most exciting, strange and romantic Valentine’s day celebrations taking place around the globe…
Unlike most of the Western World, when it comes to Japan, it’s the men who were spoiled this weekend and the women who did the spoiling! Japanese women are traditionally more shy and retiring when it comes to expressing their love, but Valentine’s day poses an opportunity to present the men in their lives with chocolate and gifts. There are even different types of chocolate to represent different things, such as the popular ‘honmei-choko’ which means ‘true-feeling chocolate’ to ‘cho-giri choko’ which translates as ‘ultra-obligatory’ chocolate, a type usually reserved for colleagues or less-liked friends.
In Denmark, the Valentine’s Day card is popularly known as a ‘lover’s card’. Traditional versions have a transparency, which when held up to the light, give a secret glimpse into an image of a lover handing his Valentine a gift. Another Danish tradition is for the men to send their beloved a type of Valentine’s card known as a gaekkebrev (meaning ‘joking letter’). The sender of this letter writes a short poem, but doesn’t sign his name, creating even more enigma by signing the message with dots – one for each letter of his name. If the receiver can guess the name of her sender then she is rewarded with…wait for it, an Easter Egg, later on in the year. Great for the chocolate-lovers of the Country by any means.
Valentine’s Day is a much-celebrated festival in Canada, where balls and parties are organised all over the country. Much like the UK, flowers, chocolates, sweets and cards are the most popular gifts and senders go out all, treating their loved ones and those that they secretly like. Classroom parties are organised within Primary schools and senior schools celebrate with dances and even more partying.
Argentinian’s like Valentine’s so much that they’ve extended the day to a week! As well as the traditional celebration on the 14th of February, there are a further seven days in July which is popularly known as ‘sweetness week’. From the 13th to the 20th of July, lovers and friends can exchanges sweets, chocolates and affection, ending with the aptly named ‘friendship day’ to close the celebrations.
Despite being dubbed ‘The City of Love’, the history of Valentine’s Day in France hasn’t always been such a happy one. Valentine’s Day originally was a time where men could select their ‘match’ from a line of single women, only to be able to trade her in for a different date if he found that she wasn’t to his taste, later on in the evening. This led to a whole host of indignant women, who began creating bonfires to burn the pictures of the men who had spurned them. This pastime became so popular that the government had to intervene to put a stop to it, in order to protect citizens from fire-fuelled injuries.
So next time you’re feeling disgruntled about your overpriced oysters, just remember that at least you don’t have to puzzle the name of your Valentine, like our Danish cousins. And if you’re someone who loves the occasion, then perhaps you should consider a quick trip to South-America, where you can drag the celebrations out for at least a week. But however you are spending it, you can be sure that there’s many more celebrations of love going on around the world at the same time, which when you think about it, is actually quite a heart-warming thought.