In the US, Valentine’s Day takes place every February 14th. During the holiday, couples give each other gifts including flowers and candy. School children usually exchange Valentine’s Day cards. Sometimes, older kids exchange candy or flowers. All in honor of love.
Where did this tradition come from, though? Why is February seen as the most romantic month of the year in the US? Why do people pay so much attention to romance, love, and friendship around Valentine’s Day?
The History of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day has existed for over 1500 years. The first Valentine’s Day holiday was observed in 496 CE. This holiday is celebrated to honor a holy man discussed in Christian and Roman Catholic faiths. His name was St. Valentine.
Saint Valentine’s story is somewhat confusing because there were several holy men who had the name Valentine. It’s difficult to be sure about which man’s history influenced the holiday tradition. Most historians agree that St. Valentine’s Day was built around a priest who performed marriages during the time they were forbidden by the emperor. Two men named Valentine were declared saints for the same reason. It’s not clear which of them inspired the holiday. A third Valentine was believed to have become a saint after working to free Christians from Roman prisons. One or all of these men may have influenced the creation of Valentine’s Day.
These historical events influence the way people celebrate love across the world. In the western world, the entire month of February is seen as a time to honor love and romance. Traditions and holiday practices aren’t followed the same way across the world. It is interesting to discover how differently other cultures celebrate. In many other countries, Valentine’s Day, and other love-related holidays, come with a selection of unique traditions.
How the World has Impacted our Traditions
Some of the traditions that are followed in the US come from other countries. For example, the practice of sending Valentine’s Day cards from a “secret admirer” originated in the United Kingdom. During the Victorian era (the 1800s), many English people believed that it was bad luck to sign their names on the cards they exchanged. Because of this, it became common to exchange Valentine’s Day greetings with no name signed.
Including friends and family in Valentine’s Day traditions became popular thanks to the inclusive traditions of Finland, Estonia, and Mexico. Estonia’s holiday is called Sobrapaev, which is a festival that’s dedicated to friendship. During Sobrapaev, singles, couples, and families get to celebrate the wonderful people in their lives. Finland and Mexico celebrate friends, family, and romantic relationships on Valentine’s Day. They also honor romantic relationships.
Read on to learn more about the different traditions that other cultures have created around the celebration of love.
Traditions Across the Globe
Most Americans are familiar with the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the US. Cultures across the globe have created their own events.
The sections below cover four main continents as well as a selection of countries in each. These countries celebrate traditional Valentine’s Day in culturally diverse ways. Some celebrate a day of love on a date that isn’t February 14th.
According to the United Nations, the European continent is made up of 44 countries. Some celebrate Valentine’s Day similar to American traditions. Several European cultures have added their own activities to their day of love. The six countries listed below each have an interesting way to spend Valentine’s Day.
- Wales: Welsh people celebrate love on January 25th. Their holiday is an ancient one called the Day of San Dwynwen. During this holiday, people carve intricate wooden spoons to exchange with the person they love.
- Bulgaria: Valentine’s Day takes place on February 14th. For Bulgarian couples, wine is an important part of the day’s celebration. In Bulgaria, couples celebrate their love by enjoying a glass of local wine together. In fact, Bulgarians call their Valentine’s Day the “Day of Winemakers.”
- Romania: Romanians celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 24th. They combine the day of love with traditional spring season celebrations. During this day, many Romanian couples get engaged.
- Czech Republic: For Czech people, the Day of Love is on May 1st. During this day, couples visit the statue of the famous poet, Karol Hynek Macha. It’s traditional to kiss under the cherry trees near the statue for good luck.
- Spain: The Feast of Dionysus is Spain’s day of love. It is celebrated on October 9th. This day is marked by parades and parties throughout public areas. Men are also encouraged to create marzipan (chewy candy) figurines to give to the person they love.
- Italy: Italian couples celebrate Valentine’s Day with gift exchanges and romantic dinner dates. Single Italians can take part in a tradition in which they wake up before dawn to go outside in hopes of spotting the person they’re going to marry in the future.
These five Asian countries celebrate Valentine’s Day, or a cultural day dedicated to love, in a variety of ways. Some countries share traditions. Others have their own unique activities that citizens take part in.
- China: The Chinese celebrate traditional Valentine’s Day on February 14th. They also have a holiday called the Qixi (CH-she) Festival. This festival usually takes place in August. During it, Chinese families tell traditional stories of love and tragedy.
- Philippines: On Valentine’s Day the government hosts public wedding events. Local government offices usually sponsor these celebrations. They cover the cost of a ceremony for low-income residents. During these events, many couples get married at the same time, then celebrate together at a massive party.
- South Korea: South Korea has a unique day of love designated for the 14th of every month. Koreans also celebrate traditional Valentine’s Day, where women give gifts to men. White Day is in March, when men give gifts to women. Black Day is in April, and during this day, single Koreans wear black and eat black noodle dishes.
- Japan: Japanese couples celebrate Valentine’s Day and White Day. During each of these holidays, the gift-giver focuses on finding gifts for the person they love. Japanese women also give chocolate to male friends, co-workers, and family members.
- Taiwan: Taiwan has three holidays dedicated to love. They celebrate Valentine’s Day and White Day. They also celebrate the Day of Love on July 7th. During this holiday, men give flowers to wives, girlfriends, or someone they like. The colors and numbers of flowers given all have different meanings.
Valentine’s Day isn’t celebrated in every part of the world. Across the African continent, there are some areas that don’t celebrate this holiday. Among the countries that have a love-related holiday, the traditions and practices are very unique. Let’s see what citizens of Ghana, South Africa, Morocco, and Kenya do to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
- Ghana: In Ghana, Valentine’s Day is also called National Chocolate Day. Cocoa beans are one of the country’s biggest export products. Chocolate-tasting events are a popular activity to attend.
- South Africa: South Africa celebrates Valentine’s Day on February 15th. During this day, women write the name of the person they like on a slip of paper and pin it to the sleeve of their shirt.
- Morocco: In Morocco, Valentine’s Day is seen as more of a social event than a religious holiday. Moroccan people who celebrate it take part in giving flowers and candy to the person they love. Romantic dinners are also common on this holiday.
- Kenya: Kenyan couples prefer to travel for this holiday. Kenyans often value experiences over physical gifts. However, going out for a romantic dinner is still a popular tradition for Kenyan couples.
Central & South American Traditions
Central and South America have a high number of Catholic citizens. So some form of Valentine’s Day is common across this massive landmass. Some countries focus their love-related holiday on a different Catholic saint. Other countries add their own practices to the traditional holiday. Some of the most interesting cultural events related to celebrating love take place in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Mexico.
- Brazil: Brazil has Lovers’ Day in June. During this holiday, Brazilian people celebrate St. Anthony. Gift exchanges can take place between partners, friends, and family members.
- Argentina: In Argentina, citizens celebrate an entire week dedicated to love in July. It is called the Week of Sweetness. Couples exchange gifts and spent time together.
- Peru: Peruvian people exchange orchids. This is because orchids are the country’s national flower. They also, often host mass weddings on Valentine’s Day.
- Mexico: Mexico’s Valentine’s Day focuses on love and friendship at the same time. Couples, friends, and families exchange cards, gifts, and candy with one another.
Why Celebrate on Different Days?
When learning about different Valentine’s Day celebrations, many people are curious why love-related holidays aren’t celebrated on the same day.
Sometimes, the different holiday schedules are due to the fact that other cultures follow unique calendars. For example, the Qixi Festival in China usually lands in August, because many Chinese holidays follow the Lunar Calendar. This calendar is based on the moon’s cycles, and the way the moon appears in the sky.
Other times, holidays that honor love follow the lives and stories of holy figures other than Saint Valentine. Slovenia celebrates love on St. Gregory’s Day. For them, Saint Valentine is a more significant figure in agriculture than love.
Cultures all over the world put a unique spin on the holidays they’ve adopted from other cultures. This is done in order to make the holiday special for the people who want to celebrate.
So, no matter the title or which day it falls on, the deep meaning of these celebrations remain the same. They are set aside so that people can express appreciation to the people who mean the most to them. We wish you all a celebration filled with love!