When it comes to Valentine’s Day, don’t we all expect that it’s a day of exchanging gifts between lovers, having a fancy meal together—whether cooked at home or eating out—and perhaps some roses? For a couple of other countries, their Valentine’s Day traditions are a little different.
Unlike the rest of the world, it’s the women who does the giving on Valentine’s Day in Japan (as well as China, South Korea and Taiwan). They will present chocolates to men—whether as a friend or a lover, or as a love confession). Then, on “White Day” which is celebrated on 14 March, these men are supposed to return the favour by giving back chocolates or gifts to the women-whether or not they reciprocate the feelings.
South Koreans celebrate the same two love-themed holidays as mentioned above; the only exception is that there is a third follow up day which isn’t as filled with hearts and gifts. Instead, it’s known as “Black Day”. Celebrated on 14 April, the singles who didn’t receive gifts on either or both days meet to eat jjajangmyun, noodles covered in black bean paste.
Not much is different about Valentine’s Day in the Philippines except that 14 February has become a popular date to get married, leading it to become a tradition where thousands of couples share a wedding day and mass wedding ceremonies have gained popularity. In recent years, hundreds of couples would gather at malls or public areas to get married or renew their vows.
In South Africa, Valentine’s Day is celebrated like many parts of the world but they also follow an ancient Roman tradition called Lupercalia. Women would pin a heart on their sleeves with the name of their love interest written on it. For some South African men, that’s how they get to know of their secret admirers.
Iraqi Kurds have a Valentine’s Day custom that focuses more on love itself. They decorate apples with cloves to preserve them, a symbol of the story of Adam and Eve. But with laws becoming more relaxed about how people show affection, more couples are starting to adopt the holiday to profess their love for one another.
Surprisingly, Valentine’s Day is relatively a new tradition in Denmark, having only been celebrated since the early 1990s), but the country has given the holiday its own Danish twist. For example, instead of roses, friends and lovers exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops. And while regular cards are now exchanged, men can also give women a gaekkebrev—a “joking letter”. It is basically a funny poem or rhyme written on intricately cut paper and signed only with dots. If the woman correctly guess the sender, she earns an Easter egg later in the year.
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