Red roses, chocolates, jewellery or perhaps a nice romantic, candlelit dinner for two? These are the things we usually treat our loved ones to in the Western World for Valentine’s Day.
But what do the old romantics in other parts of the world do? Is Valentine’s Day even celebrated, and does it even have the same meaning?
Valentine’s Day started as a Christian celebration, in Rome, for one of a number of saints named Valentinus. It was only after Chaucer romanticised the day in a poem in 1382 that it became a celebration of romantic love.
The Victorians popularised the day by mass producing Valentine’s Day cards and this soon spread across the Atlantic to the Americas. It grew into, what is today, the large industry of flowers, chocolates and cards, that we all know today.
So what happens in other parts of the world? The website MyInternationalShopping.com, which helps shoppers from all over the world with their cross-border shopping, decided to find out:
Known in Italy as “La Festa Degli Innamorati,” or holiday of lovers, Valentine’s Day is a day when the lovers of Italy display their affection for each other by attaching padlocks or “lucchetti” to bridges and railings and throwing away the key.
Finland and Estonia
Here the day is known as Friends Day in their respective languages and is a day for remembering friends and not just loved ones.
China don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day as the western World do, instead they celebrate the so-called "Chinese Valentine's Day" at the time of the Qixi Festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar.
On this day it is common for the man to give chocolates or roses to the one he loves.
The spread of Western culture throughout India has meant that some do celebrate Valentine’s day, but historically they don’t have an equivalent day. Vasant Panchami which is a festival of Spring is celebrated in some parts at about the same time, with devotees taking a holy dip in a holy river.
Another festival is Karwa Chauth, a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women in North India in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. There is no reciprocal arrangement for the husbands to fast!
Israel have their equivalent which falls, usually, on the 15th August and is called Tu B’av. It is considered to be the best day for weddings, proposals, or romantic dates.
Valentine’s Day was brought over to Japan by a chocolate company early in the 20th Century. But a misunderstanding has meant that it has become a day when women workers buy chocolates for their male colleagues. Men are encouraged to return the favour on 14th March, known as White day.
In Japan, Christmas Eve is often the night for romantic dates.
In South Korea things are similar to Japan, except the women give chocolate gifts to the men and on White Day, March 14th, the men return non-chocolate gifts to the women.
The Muslim world do not celebrate Valentine’s Day and in some Muslim countries it is not condoned, because of the Christian connection. But that doesn’t stop many Muslims, who see it as harmless fun, from celebrating the day in private and expressing their love for one another.
So many different parts of the world celebrate Valentine’s Day as a day of romance and love, even if some of the customs are different. And many of those countries who do not share the same day have their own day of celebration.
“It is very romantic to know that many, many people from all over the world will be expressing their love to their loved one’s on the same day, whatever their culture or religion” said Nick Beeny founder of MyInternationalShopping.com.
“In the run up to Valentine’s Day we have seen an large increase in visitors, from all over the world, to the website looking for gifts of love to send to their loved ones” Said Beeny.
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