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Worldwide Valentine Traditions

Published June 25, 2007        by Nicole

We all know how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the United States. On February 14th, adult, children and lovers alike exchange Valentine Day gifts and cards with one another. Many Western countries such as Italy, France, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia celebrate this romantic day in much the same way as in the United States. But what do other countries around the world do to celebrate love as we do during our Valentine’s Day celebrations?

In Wales, many people forego the traditional Valentine’s Day celebration in February to celebrate St Dwynwen's Day on January 25th instead. St. Dwynwen is the patron saint of Welsh lovers.  

The Nordic countries Denmark and Norway know February 14th as Valentinsdag, but most people don’t celebrate the day unless they take the time to send a romantic card to their lover. However, their neighbor country of Finland has Ystävänpäivä which is known as friendship day when people take the time to remember and celebrate with friends. 

In Israel, people pronounce their love, give marriage proposals and send romantic gifts or cards in late August on Tu B'Av which is the festival of love. 

Brazilians celebrate the Day of the Enamored on June 12th. This date is just before St. Anthony’s Day who was the marriage saint. It is on this day that couples exchange gifts or give flowers and cards to one another. 

Columbians and Mexicans celebrate Love & Friendship Day similarly. The difference is that in Mexico they celebrate on February 14th while in Columbia they celebrate in September. 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 holiday season. 

In Korea & Japan, our version of Valentine’s Day has evolved into two separate holidays. On February 14th, women present gifts to their male lovers and friends. The traditional gift given is chocolate. However, there are two different kinds of chocolate that have very different meanings to the recipient – one version for loved ones and one for friends. 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, the men return the favor by giving gifts to the women. Gift ideas include white chocolate or marshmallows to carry-on the white theme and flowers or jewelry. 

In China, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, the Chinese celebrate the “Night of Sevens”.  During this festival devoted to love, colorful rituals are performed in addition to exchanging gifts and cards.