Valentine’s Day traditions are all about the color red, hearts, and candy, right? Well, not every country celebrates February 14 like we do. In fact, learning about different Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world may inspire you to start new ones with your hubby or significant other.
Exchanging sweet cards with a partner and then dressing up to go out for a romantic dinner is a pretty common Valentine’s Day occurrence in many countries. But wouldn’t it be exciting to do something different, like swap love spoons, or even tie the knot with hundreds of other couples? Heck, you don’t even have to celebrate Valentine’s Day in February.
Of course, if you prefer a more low-key Valentine’s Day, then you’ll be glad chocolates and roses are still acceptable Valentine’s Day gifts. At least you don’t have to worry about giving someone the wrong chocolate, like gift-givers in Japan, or shell out for 108 roses to propose, like some men in Taiwan.
All this talk of romantic partners may leave singletons feeling left out and forgotten. For those people, we recommend starting a new Valentine’s Day tradition that’s all about friends, similar to the way it is in Finland.
No matter how you plan on spending your holiday, it’s still interesting to see how others observe it. Keep scrolling to learn more about fascinating Valentine’s Day traditions from different countries.
Valentines Day Traditions Germany
Valentine's Day is a relatively new concept for Germans, so you won't see as many decades-old holiday traditions as you would in America. However, you can still find heart-shaped candies and sweet Valentines, though this day is really for the adults rather than children. You may also notice lots of pigs on cards and other Valentine's Day-themed items, as this animal symbolizes love and luck. Large ginger cookies inscribed with frosted love notes are also popular.
Valentines Day Traditions Gaekkebrev Denmark
The Danes also like to send secret love notes, called gaekkebrev, which loosely translates to "joke letter." These messages are usually original rhymes or poems written on paper and then cut to resemble snowflakes. The anonymous sender signs the note with dots corresponding to each letter of his or her name. If the recipient can correctly identify the sender, she or he receives an Easter egg on Easter Sunday.
Valentines Day Traditions Japan
Chocolate is a popular Valentine's Day gift, but senders have to make sure not to buy the wrong candies. Honmei choco is considered a "true feeling" chocolate and should only be given to someone you love. Giri choco is an acceptable gift for a man you don't like romantically, like a coworker or boss. Watch out for cho-giri choco — pity chocolate — which is reserved for those for whom you feel sympathy. Now that's not a gift you want to receive from your crush on Valentine's Day.
Valentines Day Traditions Ystavanpaiva Finland
We typically think of Valentine's Day as a holiday for lovers, but your friends are just as deserving of some love and attention on February 14. In Finland, ystävänpäivä (or "Friend's Day") is a sweet way to recognize how much your friends mean to you. It's also a great excuse for single people to get together and spend the day doing something fun.
Valentines Day Traditions Loterie Damour France
Not all Valentine's Day traditions are romantic. In France, it used to be customary for single men to yell through windows in search of a partner. They would stop at each house until a woman accepted. However, if the man was not impressed with a woman who accepted his offer, he could just leave her. Not surprisingly, scorned women would collect pictures or mementos of men who had hurt them and burn them in a bonfire. Today, though, this tradition is banned.
Valentines Day Traditions Jajangmyeon Korea
Valentine's Day in South Korea is all about the men. Wives and girlfriends will buy chocolates for their significant others on February 14. Of course, women get their own day as well. It's the men's turn to shop for their partners on March 14, known as White Day. On April 14, South Korean singles will head to a restuarant for a steaming bowl of noodles and black bean sauce called jajangmyeon (pictured above), part of a tradition on what's called Black Day.
Valentines Day Traditions Bay Leaves England
English women would sleep with five bay leaves pinned to their pillowcases the night before Valentine's Day — one in each corner and one in the middle — according to an 18th-century tradition. Doing so would allow the women to see their future husbands in their dreams. Another version of this folklore calls for women to sprinkle rosewater on bay leaves and scatter them on the pillow. “When you go to bed, put on a clean nightgown turned wrong-side outwards,” reads one account, “and lying down, say these words softly to yourself: ‘Good Valentine, be kind to me; in dreams let me my true love see.’”
Valentines Day Traditions Philippines
One popular Valentine's Day tradition in the Philippines is to get married. Each year, thousands of happy couples say "I do" or renew their vows in mass weddings. The best part, other than sharing a special moment with a loved one, is that the venue and food are sometimes free!
Valentines Day Traditions Love Spoon Wales
The Valentine's tradition of love spoons is as sweet as the holiday. Since the 1700s, men traditionally whittle these intricate wooden spoons for women they're courting. Once a woman back in the day accepted a love spoon, the utensil was seen as a token of engagement.
Valentines Day Traditions Qixi Festival China
The Qixi Festival is China's version of Valentine's Day, and it falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Though younger generations celebrate this holiday similar to the way we observe Valentine's Day — with cards and candies — the Qixi Festival predates modern Valentine's Day celebrations. As the story goes, a cowhand married a goddess, and they had two children together. However, the woman's grandfather was upset that his granddaughter had married a mortal, so he sent someone to bring her back. The distraught cowhand and the couple's two children chased after the kidnapper but ultimately failed. The grandfather eventually took pity on his grandson-in-law and great-grandchildren and turned them into stars. Once a year, the family is reunited, and the Qixi Festival is held on the day the two stars representing the husband and wife are closest in the sky.
Valentines Day Traditions Taiwan
Taiwanese men buying roses for women must be careful about how many blooms are in the bouquet. One rose is considered a romantic gesture, but 99 blossoms signifies forever. If a man is serious about marrying his girlfriend, he will present her with 108 roses to signify a proposal.