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10 Valentine's Day Traditions from Around the World
Valentine’s Day has become a day for couples to celebrate their love, often marked with gifts of flowers and chocolates and a meal at a (crowded!) restaurant. However, not every country follows the same traditions on February 14th. We are going to take a look at how Valentine’s Day traditions from overseas differ to our own.
Parts of St Valentine himself are said to rest in a church in Dublin, giving Ireland a particularly close connection to this saint. Ireland is also home of the Claddagh ring, one of the most romantic pieces of jewellery in the world. This ring features a heart shape held by two hands, and how you wear it is very important. Wearing the ring on your right hand with heart facing out means you are looking for love, while if the heart faces in you are in a relationship. Wearing it on the left with heart facing out means you are engaged, and married people wear it with the heart facing in.
In Bulgaria the 14th of February is known as the day of St. Trifon Zarezan, also called Winemaker’s Day. Legend has it that this saint was a wine-grower, and so Bulgarians take the opportunity to raise a glass or two in his name every Valentine’s Day. Sounds like a pretty nice tradition to us!
Valentine’s Day has only been officially celebrated in Denmark since the early 1990s, but they have certainly embraced the holiday since then. It has become a tradition in this Scandinavian country for men to send women a jokey poem or rhyme, written on decorated paper and given anonymously. If the woman is able to guess who sent her the letter then she will receive an Easter egg later in the year from the same man.
St Valentine’s Day is so popular in South Korea that they actually celebrate three different versions of the feast on the 14th of February, March and April. Women do the gift-giving on Valentine’s Day itself, with the men taking their turn on ‘White Day’ (March 14th). Singletons aren’t left out either, as they celebrate ‘Black Day’ on April 14th with a plate of black bean-paste noodles.
Because the famous Carnival occurs in February, in Brazil the romantic celebrations occur on June 12th, known as ‘Lovers’ Day’. It’s not just about romance though, as family and friends can all get involved. The following day is St Anthony’s Day – the patron saint of marriage – and traditional holds that single women will make devotions to the saint in the hope of being next to walk down the aisle.
Saint Valentine has traditionally had a less romantic and more practical association in Slovenia. There he is said to bring ‘the key to the roots’, in other words to signal the end of winter and that crops can be planted in the fields. Because of this, Slovenians walk barefoot across the fields on this day, even if the weather is freezing. Another date is used to celebrate love in Slovenia: St George’s Day on the 12th of March.
Valentine’s Day in Germany features many of the same traditions we expect to find: chocolate, wine, flowers and so on. However, there is one little twist because in Germany it is traditional to include a symbol of a pig with your gift to symbolise both good luck and lust. So don’t be offended if your German boyfriend gifts you a fluffy pig on Valentine’s Day, it just shows that he cares!
China’s version of Valentine’s Day falls on the 7th day of the 7th Chinese lunar month, which for those of you not familiar with that calendar is August 17th in 2018, though it changes every year. Although the modern way to celebrate Valentine’s in China is similar to our own, in the past traditions included women demonstrating their skills at household tasks and children hanging wild flowers on the horns of oxen, although as you can imagine these customs have more or less died out by now.
In Italy one of the most popular Valentine’s Day gifts is called Baci Perugina, a chocolate-covered hazelnut wrapped in poetic verses in four different languages. In the past tradition had it that young, single Italian women would wake up before dawn on this day, to try and find their future husband. The notion was that she would marry the first man she saw that day, or at the very least someone who resembled him.
As the home of romance, it is no surprise to discover that Valentine’s Day has been celebrated in France for hundreds of years. The loterie d’amour (lottery of love) was a famous tradition whereby men would draw the names of women out of a drum, exchanging them if they were not happy with their match. The women who remained unmatched after the lottery gathered around a bonfire, throwing pictures of the men who rejected them onto the fire and shouting out insults at the opposite sex.
There is no ‘lottery of love’ at Lottoland, but there are lotteries from countries like Brazil, France, Italy and of course Ireland. The Irish Lotto draw takes place on Valentine’s Day this year, so perhaps this most romantic of days will become even sweeter for you and your loved ones.