Valentine’s Day might be one of the most popular of days around the world what with such celebrations that center on the captivating aura of love filling every heart on earth with a peculiar realisation of romance. Sure, you do not cease to be in love any moment of your life, but there’s something special about February 14 that has you eagerly awaiting this magical sounding moment in time. A lot has been said about the origins and history by which Valentine’s Day came to be celebrated in the modern times with roses and chocolates and jewelry and dates. Stemming from rather modest beginnings, in fact as a day of remembrance of a certain St. Valentine, this day of global love has also earned for itself more than a few frowns in its overly commercialised advances. More a show of love today rather than a celebration of it, the very idea of Valentine’s Day has come to be cliched, losing out therefore on much of its sheen that which derived at one time from its resting in a whole world of pure emotions. But with so much rued already about the undesirable evolution of this day as a mere magnet of commercial lures, it indeed is somewhat of a very sad aspect that the world has been forced to ponder over.
Breaking away from the public display of commercialised affection, or rather never conforming to it has been such diverse global traditions celebrating the day of love that are magically beautiful enough to give you all the real feels and to ensure that Valentine’s Day still retains part of its innocence and appeal. For while this day of romance might have had somewhat of a singular origin, yet it still encompasses every notion of romantic love in its universality. Even with different ways of acknowledging this feeling of warmth emanating from the deep reaches of the heart and sometimes also on different dates even in different months, Valentine’s Day still is every bit as charming and special as what it has always been meant to be. And that we discover today by exploring the unique ways in which V Day is celebrated in different countries in different parts of the world.
Beginning our love journey from the world’s most romantic nation of France because no one loves as passionately as the French. Housing the village of love, St Valentin that turns into the epicenter of romance between 12th and 14th February, with such magical love elements of love cards, roses, and proposals for marriage flakes adorning every place from homes to trees to yards, the Valentine experience in France is indeed one that stands true to its romantic epithet. In fact as even the place where Valentine’s Day cards find their origin dating back to 1415, when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London, France continues to rest in resplendence even today as the ultimate haven of romantic love. Somewhat less steeped in love and more in passion has been the rather dramatic French custom of loterie d’amour, or “drawing for love” that which today stands banned in being too intense a display of love, even by French standards!
Venturing some way elsewhere from the reds of romance is the Valentine’s celebrations in Denmark where it is not the deep desires of a rose but rather the pristinely white grant of a snowdrop that is the flower most commonly exchanged as a token of love. And not just in the floral encompassment of it, Valentine’s Day in the country sees also a unique tradition in its lover cards. Traditionally transparent and displaying an image of a lover presenting a gift to his beloved that can be seen only when the card is placed in front of a light, these Danish lover cards really stand out in their distinctive spirit of love, celebrated by all but holding a special place only in the hearts of lovers. No less enamoring is the the writing of gaekkebrev that which are cut out cards incorporating a love message or a romantic poem. In fact a part of the Danish Easter tradition, these sendings of love filled gaekkebrev by men to their beloved has today come to be a significant definer of February 14th in the country.
But while snowdrops outshine the so integral love element of red roses in Denmark, something rather the opposite is witnessed in the African nation of Ghana. Celebrating another quintessentially modern day element of Valentine’s Day, Ghana has come up with the rather novel idea of celebrating February 14th as also the National Chocolate Day. A purposeful designation that which is aimed at ‘encouraging’ the eating of chocolate made in the country as part of efforts to promote made in Ghana goods, this surely needs to be one of the worthiest ways to celebrate the sweet day of love, without any guilt!
‘How can we be lovers if we can’t be friends?’ If this 1989 Michael Bolton number sounds so very true to you then you need to be in either of the European nations of Finland or Estonia to celebrate your Valentine’s Day. February 14th in each of these two countries doubles up as a celebration of the platonic love of friendship as well. Beginning in Finland as Ystävän Päivä in the 1980s and making its way south to nearby Estonia by the end of the decade where it came to be known as Sõbrapäev, this particular day that seeks to celebrate love in all forms, including the romantic, sure is a different take on the Valentine’s Day frenzy indulged in elsewhere on earth.
Perhaps the most exciting of the celebrations of love that takes centerstage every February 14th hails from the region of Norfolk in England. In its immense significance that Valentine’s Day comes steeped in as a reminder of the wonderful realisation of love, it is quite delightful that this day of romance witnesses such traditions that are no less magical than the merry observances of Christmas. With the legend of Jack Valentine still a continuing custom in Norfolk, this Santa of the day of love is a very enticing figure that brings along with it all the cheer of love. Otherwise known as Old Father Valentine or Old Mother Valentine, the mysterious figure disappear into thin air after knocking at the door and dropping off their gift for both children and adults. In its very Christmasesque vibes of love, Norfolk’s Valentine’s Day tradition might just be a global favorite!
February 14th might be a continuation of the 25th December vibes in Norfolk but in the land of South Korea, Valentine’s Day is a continuation of love, throughout the year! An encompassment of such celebrations that come across as really intriguing is the custom of only women gifting gifts like chocolates and flowers to the men in their lives, to which the men responds only a month later as is customary. This observance on March 14th takes the name of White Day while exactly another month later on April 14th is another associated observance, that which is known as Black Day. The latter day diverts quite a bit from the Valentine’s Day spirit since it is meant for singles who rather ‘commiserate’ over black-colored food, especially jajangmyeon and rue their single life! Distinctive in being an associated stemming of the love celebration only in South Korea, it however isn’t just the Black Day that is a continuation of the emotional here. Celebrations continue throughout the year, with May 14th observed as Rose Day, June 14th as Kiss Day, December 14th as Hug Day and so on and so forth summing up a year of love observances because indeed, how can the vagaries of love fit within a solitary day of romantic frenzy, no matter how extravagant and indulgent that might be?
A similar spirit of love being an everyday rejoical of life sees also the nation of Argentina celebrate a whole week dedicated to it. Starting July 1st and continuing through the ‘week of sweetness’, the celebrations kickstart with lovers exchanging kisses for candy and following it up with such lovestruck customs, culminating with a friendship day on the 7th of the month. Though not a traditional observance, this rather commercial event however even surpasses the more universal Valentine’s celebration in February with its really longstanding ode to love.
Speaking of food, which is so essential an element of life and therefore of love, we cannot help but gush over the German tradition of bringing sweetness into their Valentine’s Day celebrations with a twist. Moving onward from the more popular offering of chocolates, Germany instead declares love with their traditional cookies Lebkuchen. Heart shaped Lebkuchen cookies or lebkuchenherzen are gingerbread cookies that of course are a Christmas favorite but in their very prominent heart expanse have to be as prominent a love offering as well. With also a few words of love scribbled out along their enamoring browns, this is one Valentine’s Day custom that we would want to embrace no matter where we choose to celebrate love in the world!
But perhaps the most unique celebration of love, foody or otherwise, takes place in southwestern China in Miao where Valentine’s Day takes on a different interpretation altogether. Celebrated as “Sisters’ Meal” festival on 15th March, decked up women cook a panoply of colorful rice dishes that’s offered on silk fabric to young men walking on roads. Interestingly, the relationship status derives from what remains hidden in the chosen platter of rice. A pair of chopsticks means love, a clove of garlic wards off any spark of romance even before it can set hearts beating!