February 14th is upon us and along with it come Valentine’s Day traditions. But not everyone celebrates the day of love with flowers or cards. Here’s a look at some surprising and creative Valentine’s traditions from around the world.
1. Great Britain
Did you know that the Brits were the inventors of the heart-shaped chocolate box? In the 19th century, John Cadbury, Britain’s oldest and most famous chocolate manufacturer, wanted to boost chocolate sales between Christmas and Easter. So he invented the heart-shaped choccy box. It soon became a hit and has since been copied by chocolatiers around the world, especially on Valentine’s Day.
2. South Korea
In South Korea, women give chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day. If he likes her, he must give her a gift in return on March 14th, known as White Day. If the lady doesn’t get anything back, then on 14th April, called Black Day, she must go to a restaurant, order black noodles and lament her bad luck in love.
Originally, Valentine’s Day was an Ancient Roman spring festival of love. On that day, people would take romantic strolls and gather together to read love poetry. Single girls believed they would marry the first man they saw that morning. Today in Italy, people still follow that tradition by gifting each other chocolate-covered hazelnuts called Baci Perugina, which are wrapped in a piece of paper that has a romantic quote written on it.
The Welsh don’t celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, because they have their own patron saint of lovers, St Dwynwen. This Welsh holiday of love falls on 25th January, not on 14th February. A customary St Dwynden gift is a “love spoon”, which is a Welsh tradition dating back to the 1600s. These intricately carved wooden spoons include symbols like horseshoes for luck and hearts for love.
The Brazilians, like the Welsh, do not celebrate love in February. Instead, they hold their Día Dos Namorados (Lovers’ Day) on 12th June. The evening before, it’s customary for people to perform love spells called simpatías. For example, to get someone to fall in love with you, you must write his or her name on a blue ribbon and put it under your pillow. Then, before going to bed, you must look up to the sky, count seven stars, and pray that the person falls head over heels for you.
In the USA, greeting cards rule the roost when it comes to Valentine’s gifts – much more than chocolates or flowers. The Americans send each other a staggering 190 million Valentine’s cards each February. In US schools, sending anonymous Valentine’s cards is also a huge tradition, with many schools putting up special Valentine’s Day post boxes in classrooms.
The Germans, rather strangely, have pictures of pigs on their Valentine’s cards. That’s because pigs symbolise luck and lust in Germany. The cards are mostly romantic, with piglets frolicking alongside hearts and four-leaved clovers. Others can be a little more raunchy, with pigs posing in provocative postures!
In Finland, February 14th is called ystävänpäivä, meaning Friendship Day. It isn’t a day dedicated to romance, but rather a time to celebrate your friends. The Finns are also big on giving each other greeting cards on the day. But instead of romantic themes, Finnish Valentine’s cards portray the importance of friendship.
France used to have a rather strange Valentine’s Day custom… which is now banned due to health and safety laws. Back in the 50s, on 14th February, young men and women would get together in houses that faced each other across a street. They would call and shout to each other until couples were paired off. However, if the man didn’t like the woman, he’d leave her standing on the side of the street. The girls who were rejected would then burn the men’s photographs on a bonfire in the street. The custom became so rowdy and dangerous that it was eventually outlawed by the French government.
The Danes, who love a joke, have given the “holiday of love” a sweet but humorous twist. Rather than red roses, people send funny, anonymous love letters to their intended Valentines. These letters are usually written as rhyming poems on intricately cut pieces of paper and signed only with three dots. If the recipient guesses who their Valentine is, then later in the spring, the anonymous admirer has to buy them a chocolate Easter egg.
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