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Valentine Traditions Around The World

Published February 11, 2015        by Matt

valentines day traditions around the world

Valentine's Day in America

Valentine's Day falls on February 14th each year. In the United States and most of Europe, it is the day that people express their love and devotion to one another by giving Valentine gifts and greeting cards. In fact, over 188 million greeting cards are exchanged annually making it the 2nd biggest card holiday just behind Christmas. People in the U.S. take Valentine's Day very seriously.

Millions of couples across the United States exchange red roses, boxes of heart-shaped chocolates, cookie gift baskets, balloons and of course, cards expressing one's love all in the name of St. Valentine. But what does the rest of the world do to celebrate Valentine's Day? This post explores the answer to that question.

Valentine's Day in Wales

In Wales, in recent years a trend has developed where many people forgo the traditional Valentine's Day celebration in February to celebrate St Dwynwen's Day on January 25th instead. After all, why wait an additional 3 weeks to profess your love and say 'dwi'n dy garu di' (I love you). In fact, due to the ever increasing popularity, the Welsh Language Board had bi-lingual English-Welsh St. Dwynen cards printed in 2003 and distributed by Tesco throughout Wales (similar to Walmart). St. Dwynwen is the patron saint of Welsh lovers making her the equivalent of St. Valentine.

Today most men give their significant other jewelry, Valentine candy or chocolates and flowers to convey their love and affection. However, a long-held tradition of giving Welsh Love spoons to ones lover still occurs on Valentine's Day as well as many other occasions such as St. Dwynwen's Day and wedding anniversaries.

valentines day traditions

Hundreds of years ago, hopeful young men would carve intricately detailed wooden spoons to woo the girl they were interested in. If she accepted the spoon as a gift, it demonstrated that she was interested and dating commenced. You can see examples of Love spoons dating back to 1667 in a museum in Cardiff Wales. Some wood carving companies in Wales that sell these intricately carved spoons still exist today. They do the carving for love struck men and boys who buy the spoons as gifts for their loved one.

The spoons are carved with symbols representing a wide range of emotions intended to convey the givers feelings. Here are just some of the symbol meanings:

  • Heart - Love
  • Horseshoe - Good Luck
  • Celtic Knot - Eternal Love or Together Forever
  • Twisted Stem - Two Lives Become One or Togetherness
  • Birds - Love Birds or Let's Go Away Together

For more information or to buy Welsh Love Spoons, visit this website.

Valentine's Day in Japan

Men LOVE Valentine's Day in Japan. And why not after all? In Japan, it is the day when women GIVE chocolate gifts to men and other Valentine gifts. On February 14th, women present gifts to their male lovers and friends. The traditional gift given is chocolate, but great care is taken to make sure that the correct type of chocolate is given because there are two types - one suitable for friends and one for lovers.

Giri choco or obligatory chocolate is given by women to their male friends, co-workers and superiors. Apparently, it isn't unusual for a woman to buy and hand out 20 boxes of Giri choco for Valentine's Day cookies. Honmei choco is chocolate given to the man that she is truly interested in or serious about. Usually the honmei choco is given with another gift such as a necktie to her significant other.

valentines day chocolate

Department stores in Japan gear as early as January 1st for the impending boost in chocolate sales. Elaborate displays of chocolate can be seen in store windows and on the floors of department stores. In fact, over half of the Japanese chocolate gift sales occur at Valentine's Day.

Then, on March 14th which is known as White Day (started in 1980), the men return the favor by giving gifts to the women. It is customary for the men to give gifts that cost at least as much and usually more than the gifts they received from their female counterparts. Gift ideas include white chocolate or marshmallows to carry-on the white theme as well as flowers or jewelry. Another popular white day gift are gourmet cookies or other sweet treats.

Valentine's Day in Denmark

In Denmark, the most popular Valentine's Day tradition is to give a romantic 'Lover's Card' which is colorful and message filled. Some even have music. The reason Valentine's Day cards are called Lover's cards is that in the past they were transparent cards which when held to a light revealed an image of a lover giving a beautiful gift to his beloved.

valentines day traditions

For those friends that want to celebrate Valentine's Day, it is customary to send one another white Snowdrop Flowers. Finally, there is the tradition of the gaekkebrev - a funny, rhyming poem written by a man to his love interest. He doesn't sign the poem with his name, but rather with dots (each dots represents a letter in his name). If the woman can guess who sent the poem, she receives an Easter Egg on that holiday.

Valentine Traditions in Israel

Although it seems Israel is often in the news more for war than love, they actually celebrate two holidays of love. For the last 10 to 15 years, the American equivalent of Valentine's Day is celebrated in Isreal in much the same way that it is in American. There are no shortage of fuzzy red plush bears, chocolates, longstem red roses and scads of mushy greeting cards for Israelis to convey their love.

Israel, though, gives lovers a second chance to send romantic Valentine gifts or give marriage proposals in late August on Tu B'Av which is the festival of love. Although Tu B'Av has no official status as a holiday and is a regular work day in Israel, there are numerous festivals of singing and dancing on the night of Tu B'Av.

Worldwide Valentine's Day Celebration Videos

Valentine Traditions in Brazil

Unlike in the United States, Brazil does not celebrate Valentine's Day on the 14th of February. Brazilians celebrate the Dia dos Namorados (Day of the Enamored) on June 12th. Likely, this date was chosen as the day to celebrate love because it is just before St. Anthony's Day who was the marriage saint. It is believed that St. Anthony brings good fortune on all marriages.

As with many celebrations in Brazil, the Day of the Enamored is celebrated in colorful style with festivals and dancing. It is also on this day that couples exchange gifts or give flowers and cards to one another.

Apparently, many of the shops and commercial buildings in Brazil decorate with beautiful displays and are illuminated in the evenings. Lavish parties and events are common during the Dia dos Namorados festivities.

Valentine's Day in Mexico

Mexicans celebrate Dia de San Valentin (St. Valentine's Day) on February 14th just like the U.S. The most prevalent tradition is to exchange gifts in a secret way - much like the way Americans do with secret Santa exchanges during the Christmas gift season.

All over the small towns and big cities of Mexico, you can find vendors offering up colorful balloons with captions of love such as I Love You (Te Amo) or For My Love (Para Mi Amor), Valentine chocolates, stems of red roses and greeting cards at stores like Mega (similar to Walmart). You can also find little plush bears, puppies and red hearts like those you see in America.

The men of Mexico have another special way of showing their affection to the women in their lives. In the evening, they show up at the home of their girlfriend with a mariachi band or trio of singers who serenade the girl with 2 or 3 romantic songs while standing beneath her window.

Finally, couples of all ages traditionally go out to a restaurant to celebrate Valentine's Day so if you happen to be in Mexico this winter, be sure to make restaurant reservations well in advance.

valentines day traditions

Valentine's Day in China

In China, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, the Chinese celebrate the "Night of Sevens". It should be noted that gift giving in the traditional American sense is not part of this holiday for the Chinese. However during this festival devoted to love, there are several charming customs.

The Night of Sevens occurs in late summer when the stars Altair and Vega are high in the night sky and it is on this day that once a year love is celebrated based on the love story of the 7th daughter of the Heaven Goddess and a lowly cowherder. There are many variations to this love story in Chinese culture, but one thing remains constant, the Goddess of Heaven separated the young lovers forever (thus forming the Milky Way, which separates Altair (the 7th Daughter) and Vega (the cowherder). It is said in many story variations that once a year, either the Goddess of Heaven or the magpies of the world form a bridge between Altair and Vega so the lovers may be together for a single night, the seventh night of the seventh moon. For the full story of the cowherder and the daughters, visit or China Through A Lens.

On Chinese Valentine's Day, young couples across china visit the Matchmaker's Temple where they pray for their love and possible marriage. Even single people get in on the action by praying to be lucky in love.

It is also traditional for Chinese girls to pray to the Weaving Maid to let them become smarter and better at their handcrafting skill (thus making them ready for marriage). They take their weaving needle and try to float it on water. If it floats, the girl is ready for marriage as she is already smart enough. On this day some Chinese girls burn joss sticks, prepare fruits and melons as offerings to show their devotion to the gods praying for caple hands for housework and a satisfactory husband.

10 Ways To Say I Love You

In common languages of the world!

Arabic - Ana behibak (to male)

Arabic - Ana behibek (to female)

Chinese Cantonese - Ngo oiy ney a

Chinese Mandarin - Wo ai ni

French - Je t'aime, Je t'adore

German - Ich liebe dich

Italian - Ti amo

Japanese - Aishiteru or Anata ga daisuki desu

Russian - Ya tebya liubliu

Spanish - Te quiero / Te amo