Don’t look now, but there are only 25 days left until Valentine’s Day! I know, I know – you are still recovering from Christmas and then you turn around and it’s another holiday to celebrate. Don’t worry though, you still have time to go out and pick up a little something for that special someone in your life. However, did you know that Valentine’s Day is not just an American holiday? It is celebrated all over the world in many different ways. Here is a brief look at how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in other countries.
Japan is no stranger to Valentine’s Day. Here, the women traditionally buy chocolates for the men on February 14th. Then, one month later on March 14th, the men return the favor and buy chocolates for the women that remembered them in February. March 14th is called The White Day and traditionally the chocolate given is white in color.
Recently, Valentine’s Day has made the trip over to Italy as well. Though most people in Italy feel that it is an imported holiday from the U.S., sweethearts still exchange gifts and go out for a romantic dinner. One popular gift item in Italy is Baci Perugina – small chocolate-covered hazelnuts containing a slip of paper with a romantic poetic quote – kind of like an Italian fortune cookie for romantics.
Yes, even Denmark is in on the Valentine’s Day action. The tradition in Denmark is known as Gaekkebrev. This tradition is where young couples write love poems, love notes, and other messages and send them to their sweethearts. The sender is not supposed to sign the notes, and instead writes their name with little dots on the paper. Then the recipient is supposed to guess the name of the sender. If the recipient is able to guess correctly, then they are rewarded with an Easter Egg later that year. An interesting way to combine holidays, no?
South Africa is becoming known more and more as a romantic location, and Valentine’s Day just had to make an appearance there as well. In South Africa Valentine’s Day is traditionally observed much the same way it is here. However, they also celebrate with an old Roman festival known as Lupercalia. In this festival, young women will pin their lover’s name on their sleeves. This ancient tradition is actually the beginning to the phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve.”
Of course you can’t look at Valentine’s Day around the world without stopping off in France, right? Though Valentine’s Day in France is also celebrated much the same way it is here, it is said that Valentine’s Day cards actually originated in France. A young Frenchman, Charles, Duke of Orleans, is said to have sent the first Valentine’s Day card. It is said that the Duke sent a Valentine or love note to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. In France they also used to have a very peculiar custom known as “Drawing for.” During this custom, unmarried people would face each other and begin calling out across from one window to another and pair off with a partner. If the man was not enthralled with the woman then he would leave her. Then, later that night, a bonfire would be lit and the spurned ladies would burn images of the men that left. This ritual was later abandoned and even officially banned by the French Government.