It’s Valentine’s Day, and we all know how that goes: Flowers and chocolate for your betrothed, maybe a romantic candlelit dinner. Perhaps even a goofy love poem if you’re feeling ambitious. But how do they celebrate Valentine’s Day in other parts of the world?
Women in Japan are generally reserved and especially cautious about expressing their affections openly. But not on Valentine’s Day: Traditional roles are reversed and it’s the ladies picking up chocolate, often making it themselves! Japanese men have the chance to reciprocate on White Day, which comes around on March 14.
Valentine’s Day cards are a bit different in Denmark, opting for humor over romance. Men give women gaekkebrev, silly poems sent anonymously on Valentine’s Day, where the only signature is a cryptic series of dots representing the number of letters in the sender’s name. It’s up to the recipient to figure out her admirer’s identity.
France has a worldwide reputation as the country of romance. History tells us that the very first Valentine’s Day card came from France in 1415, when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his imprisoned wife. An unusual Valentine’s Day tradition in France was une loterie d’amour, or “drawing for love”: Single residents paired off by calling out from opposite-facing houses amid much rowdiness. In fact, the French government eventually banned the practice out of safety concerns.
Valentine’s Day in Wales is called Saint Dwynwen, in celebration of the Welsh patron saint of lovers. As far back as the 16th century, men would carve intricate designs on spoons, called “love-spoons”, to give a woman they were interested in courting. Even the designs on the handle had specific meaning: Horseshoes were used to signify good luck; keys were meant to express the keys to the gentleman’s heart.
The people of South Africa love festivals and it’s no different on Valentine’s Day, when the celebrations draw thousands of tourists. Local women practice an ancient tradition called Lupercalia, pinning the name of their love interest on their shirtsleeves for all to see, including the intended crush. This is often how South African men determine their admirers.
Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, regardless of where in the world you find yourself!