Valentine’s Day is a western holiday that has spread throughout the world. Couples all over the world look forward to what they consider the “most romantic” day of the year. It is definitely a busy time for shops and florists, as couples all over rush to purchase gifts for their loved ones to show their affections. Restaurants are swamped with lovers on dates, celebrating the day of love.
While the holiday has spread across the globe, much like our varying cultures, this day is also celebrated in different and interesting ways throughout the world. Some include celebrations with friends, while other traditions involve running away from pirates!
Here are twelve unique and interesting ways the world celebrates Valentine’s Day.
In Prachinburi province in Thailand, it has become tradition for adventure seeking Thai couples to have an adventure-themed wedding on or around Valentine’s Day. Brides and groom rappel down a cliffside during the wedding ceremony as rose petals rain down on them. Some even opt for an adrenaline-filled wedding where they go from action filled activity to another to flee from pirates! Activities included in your wedding day is a flight above the jungle (and by flight I mean giant swing) and running for your life as a giant ball (of flowers) come hurtling towards you.
While Valentine’s Day is a day to pamper women in western cultures, traditional gender roles are switched on this holiday in Japan. Women are the ones presenting chocolates to the men. The women would even go as far as making their own chocolate to give to the men on this day. In the 1980s, a successful campaign brought about a new tradition where men could return the favour. March 14 is known as “White Day” and the men would show their appreciation to their women by giving them white chocolate. The name “White Day” was chosen because it signifies purity.
This South Korean tradition was adopted from the Japanese Valentine’s Day tradition. The men are also spoiled on Valentine’s Day with chocolates instead of the women. They also celebrate “White Day” like Japan, when the men can return the favour. South Korean Valentine’s Day traditions do not end there, however. They also celebrate “Black Day”, which is on April 14th. “Black Day” is a celebration for the single people who didn’t receive anything on Valentine’s Day or White Day. The casual tradition started with just eating jajangmyeon, white Korean noodles with black bean sauce, at a local restaurant.
In Guatemala, Valentine’s Day is known as El Día del Cariño. On this day, the Guatemalans put as much importance for showing friends and family their affections as much as their significant others. The holiday is celebrated with lots of colorful festivities and participants dress up in feathered masks and colourful Mayan-inspired clothing in a parade.
A Valentine’s Day tradition in the Philippines that has been on the rise in popularity is the mass wedding celebration. Hundreds of couples gather in large open spaces across the country to take part in a massive public ceremony. In 2013, 4,000 couples were married on one of these mass wedding celebrations on Valentine’s Day!
Another Valentine’s Day tradition in Thailand is an annual competition for the longest continuous kiss. The longest kiss on record happened on February 14, 2013 at an event organized by Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Pattaya, Thailand. They clocked the kiss in at 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds! The couple with the record were also the previous record holders, who won a cash prize, two diamond rings and a Guinness World Records title. They were up against nine other couples including a couple in their 70s!
While Valentine’s Day has become a global celebration of love, the holiday is actually banned in Saudi Arabia. They consider the celebration immoral and a sin because it encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women, according to officials. In fact, in 2008, Saudi officials asked gift shops and floral shops to remove all red items from their display until after Valentine’s Day. Anti-Valentine's Day protests are also rampant across the world, including countries like Malaysia and India.
Similar to the Guatemalan tradition, no one is left out in the Valentine’s Day festivities, as long as you have friends that is. Valentine’s Day is called “Friends Day” in Estonia, so that single friends are not left out in the festivities. The streets will be decorated with hearts and other Valentine’s symbols, but there is an emphasis on love between friends, family members as well as romantic partners. Friends and family even exchange gifts on this day.
Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated as the Spring Festival in Italy. Young people gathered in gardens and tree arbors to enjoy music and poetry reading, followed by a romantic stroll with their partners. In present day, Valentine’s Day is celebrated much similarly to the rest of the world. The Italians now prefer romantic dinners and gift exchanges. Italians also believe in giving chocolates -- the bigger the better! It is believed that the bigger the chocolate the stronger the love you have.
In the UK, Valentine’s cards are often sent anonymously. This is a tradition that dates all the way back to the Victorian times. Recipients find out they have a secret admirer, and only the messenger knows who the sender is. This would be a great tradition to take part of for those who haven't necessarily gathered the courage to tell their crush about their feelings.
One surviving Valentine’s Day tradition in Norfolk is the ritual of Jack Valentine, also known as Old Father Valentine or Old Mother Valentine. It is said that Jack Valentine knocks on doors and leaves gifts. He then mysteriously disappears into thin air. Although little is known about the history of the tradition, it still remains a popular custom.
In Ghana, February 14th is celebrated as “National Chocolate Day.” The holiday aims to promote Ghana’s contribution to chocolate production, as the country is actually one of the world’s largest cocoa exporters. The tradition started in 2007, and on this day, Ghana’s contribution to the chocolate industry is showcased through museum exhibits and chocolate themed restaurant menus.