Shiny, red boxes of chocolates and teddy bears are lining shelves across supermarkets in the United States as Valentine’s Day nears.
Around the world, different countries celebrate this day of love in a variety of unique ways.
Instead of bright red roses and pink boxes filled with heart-shaped chocolates, couples swap pressed white flowers, called 'snowdrops.'
However, the exchanging of Valentine’s Day “Lover’s Cards”, a staple in the traditional Valentine's Day celebrations in the U.S. is very much still a thing in Denmark.
On February 14th, men will give a woman a "gaekkebrev", a letter with a humorous rhyme or poem written on a special piece of paper with an anonymous imprint
If the woman with the gaekkebrev can guess her sender's identity, she traditionally receives an Easter egg later in the year.
Fun fact: Valentine’s Day was first celebrated in Denmark in the 1990s but seems to have taken off and risen in popularity.
In Wales, January 25th is the official Valentine’s Day celebration, in order to celebrate Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers (instead of Saint Valentine).
A traditional gift for this holiday is a wooden love spoon, given to a close friend or significant other. The tradition stems from an old practice in the 17th century where Welsh men would carefully carve wooden spoons to properly show their affection for a woman they loved.
Different symbols and patterns would carry a different meaning, like a horseshoe for good lucky, or a key which was to symbolize keys to a man’s heart. Love spoons in the modern era are also exchanged for celebrations such as weddings and births.
What better place to spend such a romantic holiday?
As it originated, Italians celebrated Valentine’s Day as what was called the “Spring Festival.” The romantic youth filled outdoor gardens to enjoy poetry and music before taking a long stroll with their beloved.
Italian Valentine’s Day tradition also calls for for young and unmarried girls to awaken before dawn in order to find their future beau. It was believed the first man a woman saw on Valentine’s Day would be the exact man himself she would marry within a year's time.
In modern times, Italians enjoy a classic Valentine’s Day celebration, such as a mutual gift exchange over a candlelit meal during the evening. Possible the most popular Valentine’s Day gift in Italy is “Baci Perugina”, which is a small, chocolate-covered hazelnut encased with a romantic quote written in four different languages.
On February 14th in Japan, the Valentine's tradition is flipped on its head, as the women celebrate the men in their lives by showing love and appreciation by way of giving chocolates.
In Japan, the type of chocolate received is indicative of the role the man represents in the woman’s life. For non-romantic relationships such as a girl's father, she gifts girl-choko or ‘obligation chocolate’. For boyfriends and husbands, honmei-choko, also known as ‘favorite or true-feeling chocolate’ is either baked or store-bought and given to her significant other.
However, exactly one month later in March falls the celebration of “White Day” where the men celebrate the important females in their lives. Popular White Day gifts consist of cookies, white jewelry, white chocolate, and even marshmallows. It is the core belief that this returned gift should be about two to three times the worth of the Valentine’s Day gift.
Finland & Estonia, A day of friendship
These two countries are similar in the fact that they choose not to take into consideration the celebration of love between a couple, and instead focus on the love found in the friendship.
In Finland and Estonia, centering their “Valentine’s Day” around the expression of gratitude and appreciation to friends and family is celebrated by cards and presents. Instead of being called Valentine’s Day, this day is called “Ystävän Päivä” in Finnish and “Sõbrapäev’’ in Estonian.
The 'day of friendship' is also celebrated with colorful ribbons and decorations adorn public complexes and even homes, with bright attractive lights to entice friends and family to spend quality time together. Live musical shows, theatrical performances, folk dances and local delicious cuisine are also commonplace.
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