Whether you love “love day” or you hate the heart-shaped chocolates and teddy bears that stare pleadingly at you in the checkout aisle, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.
Feb. 14th has always been a holiday that intrigued me.
What a lot of people don’t know about Valentine’s Day wasn’t always a day to celebrate love. Well, not to commercialized, rom-com version that the holiday is associated with today.
It got it’s (risque) start from an ancient Roman tradition called Lupercalia. Held annually on Feb. 15, priests took to the streets, spanking young women (and crops) with the skins of a sacrificed goat to promote fertility.
In fact, this tradition was so wildly popular that later, once Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, Lupercalia was transformed into a “day of feasting” in hopes of adding a “Christian Twist” to the pagan holiday.
However, even though Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity, it was outlawed at the end of the 5th century when it was deemed “un-Christian” by Pope Gelasius who promptly declared Feb. 14 St. Valentine’s Day after the execution of Saint Valentine, the wayward saint who performed illegal marriages.
Fast forward to today, Valentine’s Day has boomed into a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. In fact, every year, Americans spend a nearly $20 billion dollars on candy, cards, chocolates, flowers and more celebrating “love day.”
Now, here’s what’s always intrigued me about this holiday…
While the U.S. has “go all out” commercial traditions for Feb. 14th, this holiday is actually pretty diverse in other countries around the world.
So no matter where you fall on the relationship spectrum, let’s take a look at some of the most unique ways this heart-shaped holiday is celebrated around the globe...
SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN
Move Over Ladies, It’s Time to Pamper the Men
Get ready for one serious role-reversal. In South Korea and Japan, Feb. 14 is a day for women to shower the man in their life with chocolates. But don’t worry ladies, the favor is returned a month later. On March 14, known as White Day, men reciprocate with cake, candy and flowers.
Love By Any Other Name..
For anyone flying solo, Finland is the place to be. In Finland, Feb. 14 is officially celebrated as “Friends Day.” Instead of declaring their undying love with extravagant presents and gestures, people exchange small gifts and cards with their friends and family.
Forget Roses, Opt For Something More Exotic
Instead of exchanging roses, many opt for orchids – a flower native to the country. Like the U.S, Peruvians go all out for love day. They even hold mass weddings to accommodate all the couples saying “I do” on the most romantic day of the year.
Forget Feburary All Together
Brazilians skip the Feb. 14 celebrations and instead commemorate Saint Anthony, the patron saint of marriage and matchmaking, on June 12.
Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve...Literally
In South Africa, women pin the names of their love interest on their shirtsleeves, a tradition that actually stems back to Lupercalia. The idea is that the man you admire will learn of your secret affection for him and it might just spark a romance.
Go Big Or Go Home
Throughout Valentine’s week, thousands of Filipinos celebrate the season of love by getting married in “mass weddings” involving hundreds of couples making their vows at the same time.
In 2016, over 700 couples participated in mass weddings and in some cities like Rosario, mass weddings and other municipalities are celebrated for free. Yup that means the hefty bill for venues, food, gifts, photos and other amenities, including the marriage licenses, are provided by the local government.
Give it a Danish Twist
Although Valentine’s Day is a relatively new holiday in Denmark, the country has embraced love day with an adorable twist. Rather than roses, friends and sweethearts exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops.
On Feb. 14th, men also give women gaekkebrev, a “joking letter” which is typically a funny poem or rhyme written on intricately cut paper and signed only with anonymous dots. If a woman who receives the gaekkebrev can correctly guess the sender, she earns herself an Easter egg later that year.
Let’s Get Chocolate Wasted
In 2007, Ghana’s tourism ministry re-branded Valentine’s Day as “National Chocolate Day” in the hopes of promoting and celebrating Ghana’s booming chocolate industry as one of the largest cocoa exporters in the world. Ghanians and tourists celebrate the holiday by visiting museum exhibits, eating chocolate-themed meals at local restaurants and of course, giving each other chocolate.
The Welsh do Valentine's Day a bit earlier on January 25th. And they do it a bit differently – by gifting love-spoons. As early as the 17th century, Welsh men carved intricate wooden spoons as a token of affection for the women they loved. Patterns and symbols were carved into these love spoons, each signifying a different meaning. A few examples include horseshoes, which stand for good luck; wheels, which symbolize support; and keys, which symbolize the keys to a man’s heart. Today, love spoons are also exchanged for celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries and births.