Valentine’s Day Traditions Around the World
‘The 14th of February is known to be the day of love, right? But… what is love and how should it be expressed? And firstly, are you actually sure that the day of love is on the 14th of February?
William Gudykunst, the author “Cross-Cultural and Intercultural Communication” (Sage, 2003) says in his work that individuals assume the world is as it has been created with culturally shaped and shaded patterns of their mind. As many different countries there are in the world, that many different definitions of love and the ways of expressing feelings we may get, including different dates.’(Gabriela Weglowska, 2014)
For many Valentine’s Day is seen as an opportunity to show their feelings to their loved ones.
In England there was already ‘Valentine couples’ determined by random on the 13th of February in the 15th century. On Valentine’s Day the couples came into contact for the first time. Small gifts and poems showed the reciprocal attention. In the 19th century it became a lovers’ custom to send each other decorated cards.
Other Countries Other Customs
Europe: France, Italy, Finland and Estonia
Paris, is worldwide known as “the city of love” and therefore the capital of Valentine’s Day. Letter and card giving between lovers claims its origins in France. It is believed that it was the Duke of Orleans, a Frenchman who was held prisoner in the Tower of London in 1415 who wrote a poem to his wife in France. It is now held in the British Library in London and is known as the oldest surviving ‘valentine’.
According to Giulia Danzé, 29 from Sicily, there is a distinctive tradition in Italy: Lovers meet on bridges and along waterways. “In Italy you can also attach a “love lock” with the initials or even a photo of the couple. The two lovers each throw a key into the water and make a wish- almost always for eternal love. We Italians are so romantic”, said Giulia.
In Finland and Estonia Valentine’s Day is in fact a “Friendship Day” and is called “Ystavan Paiva” in Finnish and “Sobrapaev” in Estonian, which literally translates to Friend’s Day. Close friends exchange cards and gifts saying “Happy Friend’s Day”, but it also seems to be a popular day to get engaged or married.
Japan and Korea
The common tradition for Japan and Korea is that on the 14th February only men receive gifts.
“In my country, Valentine’s Day is a bit different from others. Valentine’s Day is for girls. Basically a girl gives chocolates that she may have made herself, or a present to the boy she loves. For girls, this is good opportunity to show what they feel to their loved ones. We (boys) expect something good on Valentine’s Day” said Mototsune Ezoe, 26.
Chocolates are also given to family and friends. They also give what’s called “giri-choco” meaning ‘obligatory chocolates’ to co-workers and male bosses as a way or showing respect, not romantic attachment. Japanese and Korean women have to wait till the 14th March for returned consideration, when they receive their Valentine’s Day gifts on what is called ‘White Day’.
South Korean also celebrate Black Day on the 14th of April when the unlucky in love eat black-bean noodles.
In China they celebrate love on the 7th day and the 7th month of the lunar calendar during The Qixi Festival. It is a tradition more than 2600 years old and the most popular wedding date for Chinese couples. It has also been translated into English as a matchmaking day. In 2013, the Guardian prepared a Chinese Valentine’s Day Gallery to uncover The Qixi Festival. You can read it here.
How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day in your country?
Share your stories with us.
Guest blogger: Grazielen Zemek
Grazielen Zemek is a UCLan graduate of International Journalism and is currently working as a Language and Enterprise Assistant in the Worldwise Learning Centre.
Research by Gabriela Weglowska for ‘Valentine’s Day Traditions Around The World And How To Avoid A Broken Heart’ presentation (2014)
Photos: Pixabay , CC0 Public Domain