Celebrated on 14 February each year, the week leading up to Valentine’s Day often sees a mad scramble for flowers, chocolates, cards and candy, as people take the opportunity to buy presents for their beloved. In some countries, however, certain traditions make the celebration of love a unique one.
While women often receive gifts on Valentine’s Day, the tables are turned in Japan, where it is the men who are on the receiving end. This is attributed to a translation mix up when the festival was first introduced in Japan in the mid-20th century. Unlike other parts of the world where bouquets and cards are common, chocolate takes precedence in Japan. In fact, chocolate sales on V-Day amount for half of all sales for confectionary companies for the entire year! March 14 is ‘White Day’ – a day for men to ‘reply’ to the women’s gifts.
For some, it can be quite lonely to see all the love birds coming out in full force on V-Day – so the Finns decided to include everyone. Rather than celebrating lovers, there is ystävänpäivä, or ‘Friend’s Day’, on February 14. While everything else is pretty much the same (giving chocolates, cards and gifts), celebrations are more inclusive, as gifts can be given to friends, family, colleagues and of course, sweethearts.
Roses might be the most popular flowers to give to the significant other on Valentine’s Day, but in Denmark, tiny white blooms called ‘snowdrops’ are the preference – and they’re given to both friends and lovers. Men might also send ‘gaekkebrev’, a funny poem. This is left unsigned, and if the woman manages to guess the sender, she is rewarded with an Easter Egg during Easter celebrations later in the year.
Taking the term ‘wearing one’s heart on their sleeves’ literally, South Africans pin the names of their beloved on their sleeves. This is believed to originate from the ancient Roman pagan festival Lupercalia, a traditional festival of love and fertility.
Owing to their colonial past, Western influences are strong in the Philippines, where Valentine’s Day is celebrated with aplomb. Large group weddings are held, sometimes with hundreds of couples. Some of these are organised by the local authorities and councils for free – complete with flowers, cake and a banquet.