Love Around the World: How Valentine’s Day is Celebrated in 7 Foreign Destinations4 min read
It’s mid-February, which means that winter is (finally, maybe) drawing to a close — for Americans, anyway.
It’s also the time we set aside to celebrate romantic relationships, to the tune of pink roses, bounteous boxes of chocolates and saccharine candy hearts.
Saint Valentine’s Day has actually been celebrated for centuries as a feast day in the Christian church before it was connected to courtly love in the era of Chaucer. Our modern-day observance is younger still, with the tradition of Valentine’s Day greeting cards emerging in the mid-1800s.
Then, British chocolatier Cadbury produced the first heart-shaped box of chocolates for the occasion in 1868, and as they say, the rest is history.
We know what Valentine’s Day has evolved into for us here in the U.S. today. But how is it celebrated elsewhere?
Here’s How Valentine’s Day is Celebrated in These 7 Countries
If you’ll be spending Cupid’s birthday somewhere outside of the country, here are some of the celebrations you might encounter.
If you’re headed south of the border for a steamy getaway with your sweetie, you’ll find Mexico’s version of Valentine’s Day bears a lot of similarity to America’s. Known as El Dia del Amor y la Amistad, or The Day of Love and Friendship, Mexicans celebrate February 14th with balloons, gifts, fancy dinner reservations, and flowers, with a special emphasis on roses.
2. The UK
As mentioned above, the UK had a hearty hand — pun intended — in starting the Valentine’s Day celebration we know and love. So do they celebrate it today?
In England, homemade pastries and sweets are favored over store-bought candy and expensive presents. Many cakes are formed in the shape of a heart for extra sweetness.
Scots lean into their reputation as bards, with lovers penning each other poems… even in high school. Anonymous secret admirer cards are also popular.
February is Carnival time in Brazil, which means Valentine’s Day gets a little overshadowed. So the country makes up for it in June with Dia dos Namorados, or Lovers’ Day, which falls on the 12th.
Along with the traditional gift-giving and fancy dinners, this part of the year is also marked by summer music festivals and performances to make the revelry all the better.
4. The Philippines
Spending Valentine’s Day in the Philippines would look very similar to an American February 14th, but for one unique tradition: mass wedding ceremonies, wherein hundreds of young couples tie the knot or renew their vows in malls, parks, and other public places.
5. South Korea
Mainly celebrated by young people in South Korea, Valentine’s Day bears a lot of resemblance in the Asian country to the celebration here at home… but with a little bit of a twist. On February 14th, it’s the women who woo their beaus with gifts and candy. Then, it’s the men’s turn a month later on March 14th, which is known as White Day.
So what about the singletons, you ask? Well, they get their own chance to celebrate — or mourn, as they see fit. April 14th is known as Black Day, and is marked by meals of black-bean paste noodles known as jajangmyeon.
France is basically synonymous with romance, so you’d expect the country to pull out all the stops for Cupid’s celebration. And in fact, there is one legend which holds that the very first Valentine’s Day card was penned and sent in France — back in 1415, from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Although many French celebrations of Valentine’s Day today are pretty traditional, there’s one historical ritual that was pretty brutal… brutal enough to have been outlawed altogether. Known as the loterie d’amour, or love lottery, during this event, men and women would gather in halls to be paired off with one another — but if a man was unsatisfied with his match, he could simply leave her. After the drawing was over, the unmatched women would gather around a bonfire, at which they would cast drawings of the men into the flames while cursing the male gender as a whole.
Finns have only been celebrating Valentine’s Day since about the 1980s, but that in no way impacts their enthusiasm for the holiday. However, their version is a little bit different in that it celebrates not just romantic or erotic love, but also the love felt through friendship. In fact, February 14th is there known as Ystävänpäivä, or Friendship Day, and is marked with generalized frivolity and non-heart-shape gift-giving.