Valentine’s Day in America is pretty straight forward… Flowers, heart-shaped candies, and fancy dinners are the “go-to” gifts for lovers in our country. But imagine if instead of flowers, we gave spoons to each other like they do in Wales? In other countries, the holiday is celebrated very differently. Here are some of my favorite ones I’ve discovered!
In China, the equivalent to Valentine’s Day is Qixi, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month every year. According to Chinese legend, a goddess fell in love with a poor cow herder and eloped. When the goddess’s father found out he sent his queen to bring her back, but in his guilt decided to allow them to see each other once a year on Qixi. To celebrate the holiday, young women in China offer melons and fruits to the goddess in hopes of finding a good husband.
In South Africa, they literally “wear their heart on their sleeve.” Young girls pin their lovers’ names on their sleeves, and in some places, men do it too. This tradition gets its roots from a Roman festival called “Lupercalia.”
Rumor has it that the first Valentine’s Day card originated in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. We here in America have adopted this tradition, and Valentine’s Day cards are used in France to this day as well.
But perhaps a more interesting French Valentine’s Day tradition that no longer exists is “loterie d’amour”, or “drawing for love” which was kind of like a love lottery. Men and women would take turns pairing off, and the men who weren’t satisfied with their match could simply leave a woman for another. All of the unmatched women would gather afterward for a bonfire to burn pictures of the men who wronged them while cursing and insulting the opposite sex. This tradition got so out of control that it was eventually banned by the French government.
In Brazil, women perform rituals called “simpatias” by writing the names of guys they like on pieces of paper, roll them up, and put them in a glass of water under their beds. In the morning, whichever scroll opened the most is supposed to reveal the name of their true love. Brazil’s Valentine’s Day holiday is actually celebrated on June 12th, and is called “Dia dos Namorados,” which means “Lovers’ Day.”
In Wales, men would carve “love spoons” from a piece of wood to give to their special someone. The spoons would have symbols of love like hearts or Celtic knot-work carved on them and are still given for Valentine’s Day, although fewer men are carving them these days and opt to buy them instead.
Nothing says love quite like a … pig? In Germany, Valentine’s Day is celebrated much like it is here, but with one minor difference… many gifts for the holiday are decorated with pigs, sometimes found in sexy poses on chocolates! Pigs are apparently symbols of lust and luck.
In South Korea and a few other places in Asia, things get a little complicated for Valentine’s Day… it’s essentially 3 separate holidays! The gift-giving starts on February 14th, but the tables are turned! Women are expected to give men chocolates, candies, flowers, etc. Then a month later on March 14th, they celebrate “White Day”, that’s when the men woo their ladies with tokens of affection. Don’t worry.. if you’re single there’s still a holiday for you! If you have no one to celebrate with on either Valentine’s Day or White Day… you get “Black Day” on April 14th… The tradition is for single men and women to mourn their single status by eating dark bowls of “jajangmyeon,” which are black bean-paste noodles.
My favorite weird Valentine Day tradition isn’t a real tradition at all… it was one created for the TV show Invader Zim that aired on Nickelodeon in the early 2000s. The show takes place in a dystopian future, and apparently they give each other Valentine meat slabs instead of cards and candy on Valentine’s Day. They never explain exactly why, but in episode 20, Zim’s teacher mentions that it was because of some unpleasant event. At least it’s heart-shaped slabs of meat! In the show, they still use regular Valentine’s Day decorations too, like heart-shaped balloons, despite the odd dystopian spin on the show.
Regardless of your traditions, there’s no wrong way to celebrate Valentine’s Day! I hope you enjoyed learning about these different traditions from around the world (and in fictional worlds)!