From the US to Wales, Denmark, South Africa, China, South Korea, and Japan, love is a feeling that is universally cherished and celebrated. Some nations celebrate it along with the US on the 14th of February every year, but others have their own dates and rituals for the expression of love and affection. These celebrations of love are not just a time to show affection to your significant other though, as some countries also celebrate platonic love and friendship just as merrily.
Here, we’ll discuss love traditions from 12 different nations and how love is celebrated around the world. Stick with us for the tour…
The celebration of love in Wales are held on the 25th of January every year in honour of the patron saint of Welsh lovers. The story of Saint Dwynwen is a tragic one, where she could not marry the man she loved as she was already engaged to someone else. Heartbroken, she dedicated herself to the service of God in a church on Llanddwyn Island. The ruins of the church are still standing and many couples visit it for good luck.
It is a tradition for Welsh men to give a carved wooden spoon to their lovers on St. Dwynwen’s Day. The spoons have intricate symbols etched into their surface, representing good luck, support, love, and happiness. Spoons are also presented on wedding proposals, and if the proposal is rejected, the spoon is returned. If the proposal is accepted, the girl wears the spoon around her neck. Over time, ‘lovespoons’, as the gifts are called, are also being presented on anniversaries and are a popular souvenir for tourists as well.
Love is celebrated along with the arrival of spring on the 12th of March across Slovenia. The celebration is known as ‘Gregorjevo’ or ‘St. Gregory’s Day’. A popular Slovenian saying is that birds get married on the day with the start of springtime. As such, bird décor is prominently featured, and heart-shaped cookies made with honey are gifted to loved ones.
The US celebrates Valentine’s Day in the honour of St. Valentine on February 14th every year. While the occasion needs no introduction, some of the traditions associated with it are to give cards, candies, chocolates, roses, and gifts to loved ones, friends, and sweethearts. While children often hand out sweets and cards to their classmates, couples head out for romantic dinners in the evening. Thematic décor containing red hearts and red roses is prominent on the occasion.
While the Philippines also celebrates Valentine’s Day on the 14th of February, their celebration of love differs from the US. Many people might find getting married on this day to be a cliché, but in the Philippines, mass weddings are held each year on February 14th, where thousands of couples gather to say or renew their vows. The ceremonies are often free and organised by the government as a form of public service.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Japan with a twist. It is not the men, but the women who gift chocolates to the men in their lives on the 14th of February. The chocolates are usually of two types, ‘Giri Choco’, which means ‘obligation chocolate’ and is given to friends, colleagues, and classmates, or ‘Honmei Choco’, meaning ‘true feeling chocolate’ that is given to lovers and husbands. Many women buy cheap chocolates as Giri Choco and make Honmei Choco at home as an added form of affection.
The tradition doesn’t end here though. Exactly a month later, on the 14th of March, Japanese men have to present whites chocolates and flowers to the women from whom they received chocolates in February. This occasion is known as White Day and is a chance for the men to return the affection.
South Korea is a country where love is celebrated every month. That’s right! The 14th of every month is a love or friendship themed holiday in South Korea. There is January’s Candle Day, February’s Valentine’s Day, March’s White Day, April’s Black Day, May’s Rose Day, June’s Kiss Day, July’s Silver Day, August’s Green Day, September’s Music Day, October’s Wine Day, November’s Movie Day, and December’s Hug Day.
Among the most popular are the holidays celebrated February, March, and April. While the Valentine’s Day and White Day traditions are similar to how they are celebrated in Japan – with women giving chocolates in February and receiving some in March – it is April’s Black Day that is truly unique. This is a day for the single ones, those who did not give or receive chocolates in the earlier two months. Singles mourn their loneliness by eating bowls of ‘jajangmyeon’ or ‘black bean-paste noodles’ on the day.
The Catalonian region of Spain celebrates ‘St. Jordi’s Day’ or ‘St. George’s Day’ on the 23rd of April every year. The day is celebrated in honour of Catalonia’s patron saint, who is said to have killed a dragon and saved the kingdom and the princess. This event coincides with the celebration of World Book Day. Thus, the festivities are a mix of both occasions. While men gift roses to women, women gift books in return to the men. Stalls of books and flowers are set up all over the region so people can find gifts for their loved ones conveniently.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 14th February in Denmark, but while the world gives roses, the Danes gift pressed small white flowers called ‘snowdrops’ to their loved ones. Taking the tradition of giving cards on Valentine’s Day further, the men in Denmark write funny poems or rhymes on intricately cut paper for their beloved. Known as ‘gaekkebrev’ or ‘joking letters’, these messages are signed only with dots, one for each letter of the sender’s name.
The tradition goes that if the receiver can guess the name of the sender in three guesses, she is owed an Easter egg on Easter Sunday. If the name has not been guessed correctly, then the sender is owed an Easter egg instead.
The 14th of February sees the women in South Africa take inspiration from the ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia that used to be held on the 15th of February. The Lupercalia festival involved putting the names of the girls residing in a particular area inside a box, and the boys being asked to pick one name each. The couple would then be paired together until the next year. Today, women have taken an alternate initiative by wearing the name of their beloved on their sleeves for all to see. The name is written on a heart-shaped pin and attached to the sleeve of the girl’s dress.
The 14th of February is not just a day for couples in Finland. It is a day to celebrate friendship. While the tradition is the same, including gifting candies, cards or flowers, the purpose is not to merely celebrate romantic love. Friend’s Day is an all-inclusive holiday where giving pink roses is customary to all those who are dear to you. Nobody feels left out in Finland!
China has two different ways to celebrate love. The first is the Qixi Festival held on the 7th day of the 7th month as per the lunar calendar. The second is the Lantern Festival held on the 15th day of the lunar calendar, shortly after the Chinese New Year.
The Qixi Festival originates from a legend called ‘The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd’ where a weaver girl, who was a fairy, falls in love with a mortal cowherd. The girl’s parents separate the two, and the girl is only allowed to meet her beloved on one particular day of the year; the 7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar. While the story has lost significance in major cities, rural areas of China still follow its traditions, mostly linked to women weaving patterns in the hopes of finding a good husband.
The Lantern Festival traces its origins to when only single people used to carry lanterns on the streets at night. Today, it is considered as a day of love, where couples light lanterns together and let them drift into the night sky. One popular tradition is that couples visit the temple of Yue Lao, who is the mythological god of marriage and love, and pray for their togetherness.
Brazil celebrates ‘Dia dos Namorados’ or ‘Lovers’ Day’ in a similar fashion as the US. However, rather than celebrating it in February, the holiday is set for the 12th of June each year. The date is chosen because it is the eve of the feast of St. Anthony’s Day, celebrated on the 13th of June. St. Anthony is their patron saint of marriage.
The information shared above shows how each country has its own traditions for the celebration of love and affection, not just for their significant others, but also for their friends and family.