Valentine's Day 2024: From Japan's white day to Philippines' mass weddings, explore top traditions from around the world
Valentine's Day 2024: From Finland's Friendship Day to Germany's pig-shaped gifts, let's explore the diverse ways in which the world embraces this day of love.
The stage is set: chocolates are on standby, roses have been carefully selected and the teddy bears are ready. It's no secret - Valentine's Day is just around the corner! In most parts of the world, 14 February is officially recognised as the day of love. On this day, lovers show their affection for each other by giving each other gifts, a custom that helped make Valentine's Day the commercial holiday it is today. Each nation has its own way of celebrating this day of love, which is marked by a variety of unusual customs, from exchanging love letters from secret admirers to sharing heart-shaped chocolates.
Let's take a look at some of the unique Valentine's Day customs from around the world and let them inspire you to celebrate this year's Valentine's Day in a unique way. (Also read: Valentine's Day 2024: Best DIY greeting card ideas and heartfelt messages to write on your card)
How Valentine's Day is Celebrated Around the World
Finland celebrates Ystävänpäivä (pronounced YOUS-ta-van-PIE-vah) in place of the usual Valentine's Day when significant ones are acknowledged with presents, greeting cards, and romantic gestures. Ystävänpäivä, which roughly translates to "Friendship Day," is observed on February 14 every year. Fins show their friends and loved ones how much they are appreciated by giving them tiny gifts and memories on Valentine's Day, as opposed to extravagant shows of care and love.
Spain celebrates San Valentín, or Saint Valentine's Day, on February 14, with gifts, romantic dinners and other loving customs not too dissimilar to those of Americans. Some believe that October 9 is the real day to celebrate love, as Valencians and other Spaniards honour Saint Dionysus, widely considered the patron saint of love. In some parts of Spain, October 9 is celebrated with parades, festivals and other events. In a ceremony known as Mocaorà, men traditionally present their sweethearts with silk scarves or handkerchiefs decorated with marzipan.
In a refreshing departure from conventional gender norms, women in Japan are expected to spend big on Valentine's Day, showering their significant others with expensive jewellery and chocolates. But the gift-giving doesn't stop there. A month after Valentine's Day, on March 14, Japan also celebrates a holiday known as White Day, when men who have received gifts from women are expected to return the favour. Gifts for White Day customs range from lingerie to sweets, jewellery and white chocolate.
In Denmark and Norway, Valentine's Day celebrations are not limited to romantic partners. "Lover's cards, which can be sentimental or humorous, are exchanged between friends and relatives. Some people even write an anonymous joke letter, known as a "gaekkebrev", in which the signature is made up entirely of dots. The letter contains a short poem or message along with elaborate paper cut-outs. The recipient of the gaekkebrev, or "snowdrop letter", is entitled to an Easter egg if they correctly guess who sent it. It also works the other way around: if they get it wrong, they have to give the sender an Easter egg.
While there are many ways to spend Valentine's Day in England, listening to adorable children sing is one of the most popular. Little singers are rewarded with sweets, fruit or money. To celebrate a plentiful harvest, some people even exchange Valentine's buns, often called 'plum shuttles', which are made with raisins, plums or caraway seeds.
While Valentine's Day celebrations in the Philippines are similar to those in Western countries, the celebration on February 14 is different as thousands of couples celebrate their wedding anniversary on the same day. In recent years, "mass weddings", where many couples gather in public places to exchange vows or get married, have become increasingly popular in the Philippines.
If you're tired of heart-shaped trinkets, take inspiration from German couples who give each other pig-shaped gifts for Valentine's Day. It is customary to give and receive stuffed animals, statues and other items with pigs on them, as it is said that the pig represents both lust and love. Chocolates and flowers are often exchanged, along with ginger biscuits iced with sentimental inscriptions.
To enjoy Valentine's Day in Mexico, a celebration of love, you don't have to be in a romantic relationship. This is because February 14th is "El Día del Amor y Amistad", or "The Day of Love and Friendship", a celebration that anyone can take part in, regardless of relationship status, and which is marked with flowers, cards, stuffed animals and other gifts.
In South Africa, Valentine's Day is really celebrated on February 15 in observance of the Roman festival Lupercalia, therefore there won't be many secret admirers on that day. This is due to the fact that certain women physically wear their hearts on their sleeves. Specifically, these women will write the name of the person they are in love with on a piece of paper and pin it to their sleeve. Not feeling all that brave? Alternatively, you might just give them tiny presents like flowers.
Chocolate, at least for the men, is as plentiful as flowers and gifts. A month later, on White Day, men return the favour by giving their spouses chocolate on Valentine's Day. On April 14, singles also get their day. It's called Black Day, when single people enjoy a bowl of "jajangmyeon", noodles with a black bean sauce while brooding over (or celebrating?) their single status.