How the World Celebrates Valentine’s Day

We may celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th by taking someone out to a romantic dinner, sending our loved ones flowers, or giving out candy and chocolates, but around the world cupid’s day is celebrated in a multitude of ways. So how is Valentine’s Day celebrated in other countries around the world?

In Japan, the tradition is for women to give men chocolates! There are two different kinds: giri-choco, chocolate for ones friends and co-workers, and honmei-choco, chocolate for one’s significant other or one true love. Don’t worry – women get spoiled on their own day, March 14th known as “White Day.”

Similarly, in South Korea, they follow the tradition of men receiving chocolates on February 14th, women receiving sweets on March 14th, and on April 14th is “Black Day,” a celebration for single people to gather and eat jajangmyeon, noodles with a black bean sauce. There are several other special holidays in Korea on the 14th of most months, for example, May 14th is Rose Day and December 14th is Hug Day.

In Taiwan, the number of roses someone gifts you sends a different message. For example, if someone gives you one rose, it is a symbol of love while 99 roses means forever. And if someone gifts you 108 roses on Valentine’s Day, it is a proposal of marriage.

On the other side of the world, the British celebrate by baking buns with caraway seeds and raisins or plums. Other celebrations include children singing special songs. In exchange, kids receive candy, fruit or money.

In one of the coldest parts of the world, Denmark and Norway celebrate Valentinsdag by men giving women anonymous gaekkebrev, or funny poems and love notes, signed with dots as a hint to the name of the sender, a dot for each letter in the guy’s name. If guessed correctly, the sender owes the woman an Easter egg on Easter Day. If she doesn’t, then she owes her Valentine an Easter egg instead!

Other Europeans, like Italians, used to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day by holding open-air festivals in arbors and gardens to listen to music and poetry. Instead, stores are now decked out in bon-bons.

Different to the rest of the Western world, Finland and Estonia use the 14th to celebrate friendship and give greeting cards with “Happy Friends Day.”

Saint Valentine was imprisoned for marrying young couples against the ruling of Emperor Claudius II in Ancient Rome. Legend has it that the last words he wrote was a love note, signed “From your Valentine,” thus beginning the tradition of Valentine’s Day. Ubiquitous across the world is the notion of showing your friends and loved ones you care on this special occasion. Buying fair trade and supporting a good cause can also help spread the love this February.


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Post by Barbara Lee.

Barbara is a world traveler who is passionate about sustainable food systems, responsible consumerism, and holistic living. Her professional background and interests include writing, non-profit legal work, eco-conservation, and motorcycles.