It’s the day before Valentine’s Day in my home country. For those of you that may not be familiar with the pseudo holiday, it is a day where romantic love takes center stage. Chocolates, roses, dinner dates, and high expectations abound… and perhaps a large group of people who spend the day feeling sad that they are “alone.”
I have been on both ends of the spectrum on this puffed-up day, and it seems many others around the world have too! From France and Wales, to South Africa and Korea, countries worldwide take part in lovey-dovey traditions. Let’s take a look at some of the most fun ones that I have come across.
In addition to romantic cards, flowers and festivals of Valentine’s Day, South African girls wear hearts pinned to their sleeve and write the name of their loved-one or crush on it. The fun event comes from an ancient Roman tradition, often as a way for boys to learn who their admirers were.
Valentine’s Day spans three different stages in South Korea. On February 14th, it is the women’s job to shower the men in their life with chocolates; before the roles reverse on March 14th, dubbed “White Day”, when it’s the men’s turn. The strangest part may be the third holiday, called “Black Day” where singles go to noodle shops and order a bowl of dark black bean noodles to “mourn” their single status!
Valentine’s Day is relative new in this Scandinavian land, but they have one fun ritual that has quickly caught on. On February 14th, men give women a gaekkebrev or “joking letter” that has a light-hearted, funny poem. Signed only with a series of dots, the woman must try and guess who her secret sender is. If she succeeds…she earns herself an Easter egg later in the year.
Instead of celebrating the old traditions of Saint Valentine, the Welsh’s symbol of love is Saint Dwynwen – the Patron Saint of Lovers. On January 25th, historically men carved wooden spoons and gifted them to the women they loved. Today, love spoons are still exchanged on special occasions like weddings and births.
France has long been associated with romance, including Valentine’s traditions. But, it hasn’t always been this “sweet.” In the past, they had a customary “drawing for love” event where singles gathered in houses on opposite ends of the street. Women would then call out the names of their desired partners from the windows. If they denied? Well, the angry group of single girls would gather all the images together to be burned in a giant bonfire. This sorority, turned nightmare got so ugly that the government had to ban the tradition.
Historically, English girls use to place four bay leaves under their pillows and eat boiled eggs-whites with salt on the eve of Valentine’s Day, ensuring they had sweet dreams of love that would later come true. In fact, the festivities of Valentine’s were so grand during the 19th century, that some say England sparked the worldwide phenomenon of giving Valentines cards and greetings. Obviously the bay leaf, egg-white custom has died out, but an old Valentine’s myth does still live on in the town of Norfolk. A Santa of sorts named Jack Valentine knocks on the family’s door and secretly delivers candies and small gifts for the kids to enjoy.
It’s quite obvious that the human race has some quirky, fun and sometimes strange customs related to love. No matter how you celebrate Valentine’s Day, I hope that you all cherish the loved ones in your life and find simple, heart-felt ways to tell them.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Feature Photo Credit: Thinkstock/istock/Gita Kulinica