When you hear the words Valentine’s Day, it’s likely you start thinking of roses, chocolates, fancy candlelit dinners and romance but have you ever thought about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world?
With origins rooted in the Catholic Church, many believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of the death of St. Valentine, which likely happened around A.D. 270. Others claim that the Christian church decided to place the St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.1
Despite its origins, the idea of Valentine’s Day is gaining world acceptance and many more countries are now celebrating the Day of Love with their own unique customs and traditions. In Korea, the traditional gift of candy takes place on February 14th but only from women to men. March 14th is a reply day, when young men return the favor and give gifts and candy to their sweethearts. Like in Korea, in Japan March 14th is known as “White Day.” On “White Day,” many young men confess their love for the first time to the girls they’re crushing on and give non-chocolate (white) candy to them. On April 14th, South Koreans have set aside another day for those who have no romantic partners. On Black Day, singles get together and eat black noodles called Jajangymyeon, hence the name of the day.2
In places like Mexico, Costa Rica and Ecuador, they refer to Valentine’s Day as Día del Amor y la Amistad, or “Day of Love and Friendship.” Although very similar to the traditional version of Valentine’s Day, it is also common to for people to do acts of kindness and appreciation for their family and friends. It’s also a time when you’re most likely to hear a mariachi band playing as young men often stand under their sweethearts’ window to serenade them.3
According to a Scottish custom, the first young man or woman encountered by chance on the street or elsewhere on Valentine’s Day will become that individual’s valentine. Valentine’s Day gifts in Scotland are frequently given by both parties in the form of love-tokens or true-love-knots.4
In Thailand, Valentine’s Day has taken flight, literally! Hanging off the sides of cliffs, sky-diving and underwater wedding packages have become trending ways to tie the knot among Thai couples. For those who prefer their feet on the ground, Valentine’s Day is also a time for Thai women to flock to the Trimurti shrine where they lay red roses, candles and incense at the feet of the Hindu deity and pray for a husband.5
No matter how you celebrate, Valentine’s Day is a time for romance, love and appreciation for your special someone. So break out the flowers, grab those boxes of chocolate and be sure to share your feelings for those closest to you!
How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? We’d love to hear your stories.
- Ali Goldfield, Psychotherapist