Valentine's Day Traditions Around the World

We are getting ready to celebrate Valentine's Day here in America. It is a day where lovers exchange cards and gifts--often flowers and candy. Families often exchange cards as well and kids exchange cards at school. But how is Valentine's Day celebrated in other countries? Here are a few different traditions.

A tradition in France was  loterie d’amour, or drawing for love. Men would gather in one house and women in a facing house. They would take turns calling out and pairing off. Men can leave and try again if they do not like their match and unmatched women would gather by a bonfire. At the bonfire women would burn pictures of men who wronged them and insult and swear at the opposite sex. This event was banned by the French government because it became uncontrollable.

In South Korea there are Valentine’s Day traditions that happen on the 14th of three months. In February the women gift the men with chocolates, candies and flowers. In March it is called White Day and the men give the women flowers, candies, chocolates and gifts. Then in April the ones who are single mourn their singleness on Black Day by eating jajangmyeon or black bean-paste noodles.

Jajangmyeon By by moriza ( [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In Wales they celebrate Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of love on January 25th. The traditional gift is a love spoon. Men traditionally carved intricate wooden spoons for the women they loved with patterns and symbols with different meanings.

Love spoon
Love Spoon By José-Manuel Benito (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In England single women place five bay leaves under their pillows on the eve of Valentine’s Day, so they will dream of their future husbands. In Norfolk, there is a Jack Valentine figure that acts like Santa Claus for Valentine’s Day. The children wait to hear Jack knock on their doors. They never get to see him but enjoy the gifts he leaves on their porches.

In South Africa it is custom for women to wear their hearts on the sleeves on Valentine’s Day. They literally pin the name of the man they are interested in on their sleeve. It is a take on the ancient Roman tradition Lupercalia.

In Argentina there is an entire Sweetness Week in July that was started as a confectioner marketing campaign that was quickly embraced by the country. The idea is that kisses are exchanged for treats.

In Ghana, February 14th is known as Chocolate Day (since 2007) to boost tourism. Special chocolate menus, exhibitions and talks are found all around the country.

In Denmark, men give women gaekkebrev, a joking letter that consists of a funny poem or rhyme written on intricately cut paper and signed with anonymous dots. If the woman guesses who sent it she gets an Easter egg later in the year.

Gækkebrev 2
Gaekkebrev By Nillerdk (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In Camogli, Italy the celebration goes on for the week prior to Valentine’s Day. The week consists of a fishing net hung on the harbor wall. People put red card hearts with their name and their Valentine’s name on it and hang them on the fishing net. The cards that survive the elements of the week are thought to be the relationships that will withstand the test of time. There is also a poetry competition as well as an art competition. Anyone over 17 can enter either. Then there are special markets, the stores are decorated and the bars and restaurants serve special new cocktails and menus. And of course, the meal is finished with a chocolate dessert.

In the Philippines it has become a custom to get married on February 14th. Mass weddings are very popular where couples gather at malls or other public places to say their vows in mass.