Top 10 Valentine’s Day Celebrations Around The World
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Ah, the 14th of February. The international day of love.
Love it or hate it, the 14th of February is a time when we are inundated with flowers, chocolates, declarations of love, and all things heart-shaped.
But not all countries celebrate the same way. You may be familiar with red roses and over-booked restaurants, but others may associate hazelnuts and cherry trees with Valentine’s Day.
But first things first, why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Historically, Saint Valentine was a priest who performed weddings for soldiers who weren’t allowed to marry. In those days, married men were seen as weaker warriors – correlation or cause or effect, we’re not sure 😉 – and so the emperor prohibited them from marrying.
More recently, during the Middle Ages (ok, so not so recently!) Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a number of poems describing a “valentine”, which is where our celebrations are believed to have originated.
Regardless of how it started, it’s big business these days. Americans alone spent $26 million on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2023! And they send around 145 million Valentine’s Day cards every year. And that’s just America!
Let’s look at a few of the more unusual Valentine’s Day Celebrations around the world.
Valentine’s Day in South Korea is kinda unconventional by Western standards. On February 14th, the men get to relax and keep their wallets in their pockets because it’s customary for women to do the spending and give men flowers, chocolates or sweets. On March 14th – known as White Day – it’s the ladies’ turn and the men return the favour with flowers, chocolates and a gift.
Traditionally the Chinese celebrate the equivalent of Valentine’s Day on Qixi – the Seventh Night Festival – which is on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. According to Chinese legend, a heavenly king’s daughter and a cowherd fell in love, got married and had twins. The king was unhappy with the marriage and made his daughter return to the heavens. But when the king heard the cries of the cowherd and the twins, he allowed his daughter to return to her family once a year on Qixi.
During Qixi, women offer fruit to this mythical king to increase their chances of finding a husband, while couples go to temples to pray for happiness and prosperity.
The Danes are new to the idea of celebrating Valentine’s Day; they have been celebrating February 14th only since the 1990s. They decided to move away from the traditional roses and instead give white snowdrops to loved ones, or even friends.
Along with the flowers, men can give women gaekkebrev, which is a card with a funny poem written in it and signed anonymously. If the woman can correctly guess who sent her the card, she will be given an Easter egg at Easter.
Traditionally, Valentine’s Day in Italy is also celebrated as the Spring Festival. Couples gather in gardens and public spaces to read poetry and take a walk together. Another traditional belief is that the first man a woman sees on Valentine’s Day will be the man she would marry (which is a frightening thought), and they would marry within a year. These days, Italians give each other baci perugina, hazelnuts covered in chocolate, wrapped in paper with a romantic quote written on it in four languages.
Considering that Paris is considered by many to be the most romantic city in the world, it’s no surprise that couples flock to the city to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
To demonstrate their love, couples used to be able to attach a padlock to the Pont des Arts and throw the key in the River Seine, but the locks have since been removed and the practice frowned upon for safety reasons – which sounds lame but is reasonable when you realise the locks weighed the same as twenty elephants! Besides Paris, the village of St Valentin holds a Valentine’s Day Festival every year, when the village is decorated with flowers and couples come here to get married, renew their wedding vows and plant trees.
Celebrated on May 1st, Valentine’s Day is a very romantic affair in Czech Republic. On this day couples make a pilgrimage to a statue of the poet Karol Hynek Macha and kiss under the cherry trees for good luck.
Historically, in England, on the evening before Valentine’s Day, women used to put five bay leaves on their pillows to bring dreams of their future husbands. In Norfolk, Jack Valentine leaves small gifts and sweets or chocolates on porches for children.
Over in Wales, a tradition which has been practiced since the 16th century is still carried out in some parts of the country. January 25th is known as the Day of San Dwynen and on this day lovers exchange unique handcrafted spoons.
Brazilians don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day as such – because they’re usually too occupied with Carnival in February – but they celebrate Dia dos Namorades or Lover’s Day on June 12th. On this day couples give each other the usual gifts, chocolates and flowers but they also celebrate the day with their friends. The following day is Saint Anthony’s Day which honours the patron saint of marriage.
Valentine’s Day in the Philippines takes romance to the next level. Besides the usual Valentine’s Day celebrations, in recent years February 14th has become a very popular day to get married. So much so that thousands of couples gather in a public space to either get married or renew their vows together on this day.
Ghanians have the right idea! In Ghana February 14th is celebrated as National Chocolate Day. Ghana is one of the top cocoa producing countries in the world, so the government cleverly introduced this holiday in 2007 to boost tourism. On this day there are festivals and performances throughout the country.
But hang on! If you’re not loved up on Valentine’s Day, – South Korea has got you covered!
On April 14th, also known as Black Day, singletons gather together to eat jajangmyeon – black bean-paste noodles. While this is traditionally considered to be a day of mourning, we think it’s a great excuse for a party!
Or, if you’d like an official day of celebration, Estonia celebrates friendship day on February 14th with parties and festivals for singles and couples alike.
P.S. If you’re keen on discovering – and experiencing – different customs and traditions like this yourself, you should look into a TEFL course. A TEFL qualification is all you need to live and teach in (almost) any country in the world. Maybe next year you could be in the city of love for Valentine’s Day yourself!
The TEFL Academy was the world’s first TEFL course provider to receive official recognition from government regulated awarding bodies in both the USA and UK. This means when you graduate you’ll hold a globally recognised Level 3 (120hr) Certificate or Level 5 (168hr) Diploma, meaning you can find work anywhere and apply for jobs immediately.