If Valentine's Day was a story, the main characters would be chocolates and flowers. America is a country where you can't forget an upcoming holiday, because weeks (and sometimes months) in advance, you'll find gifts and decorations ready for purchase. Valentine's celebrations start early in America, and the evidence of the upcoming holiday is all around.
Walking into a CVS for your prescription in January only to find it filled with flowers, teddy bears, and chocolate poses an early reminder of how married (or single) you are.
Halfway across the planet, you'll find a series of calls to love and romance. Some couples exchange handwritten letters, while others save this day for their wedding. Others head to a temple dedicated to lovers and pray for their good fortune.
Continue reading for the various Valentine's traditions in these 14 countries all over the world.
Is Valentine's Day Celebrated Around the World?
The answer is a resounding yes, countries all over the world celebrate Valentine's Day. While those traditions may appear unfamiliar to the way it's celebrated back home, most of them focus on the one common theme: love.
Valentine's Celebrations Around the World
Beyond the traditional roses and chocolates, different cultures infuse their own spin on this romantic occasion.
From South Korea's intricate web of celebrations spanning months to Wales' quaint exchange of wooden love spoons, this exploration promises to unveil the richness of global traditions that make Valentine's Day a truly universal celebration of love.
European Valentine's Traditions
Romance intertwines with centuries-old elegance. Across the continent, from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the historic canals of Venice, love takes center stage in a myriad of charming customs and rituals.
Valentine's Day in France
Picture this: A cozy cafe in Paris, the City of Love, adorned with flickering candles as the Eiffel Tower sparkles in the distance. A couple sips espresso, exchanging love letters in the form of delicate handmade cards. It's said that the first ever Valentine's Day was celebrated in France when in 1415, the Duke of Orleans sent love letters to his wife from the prison.
Now couples travel from all over the world to experience this holiday with a clear sight of the Eiffel Tower. Let's not forget that many women also travel to the tombstone of Victor Noir and make some lascivious touches to have good luck in relationships and fertility.
Valentine's Day in Italy
Valentine's Day was originally celebrated at the Spring holiday, however now it's seen as an opportunity to exchange flowers and Baci, little chocolate-covered hazelnuts in foil wrapping.
Bacio is the Italian word for kiss, so we can't imagine a better type of chocolate to exchange. More specific to some regions, lovebirds may attach padlocks to Ponte Vecchio in Florence, or one of the many canal railings in Venice.
Valentine's Day in Estonia
Estonia chooses to go beyond romantic love on February 14th, and instead celebrates friends. Known as "Sõbrapäev," which translates literally to Friendship Day, Estonians celebrate all relationships, where gifts are exchanged from both romantic partners and platonic friends.
Valentine's Day in Wales
In Wales, the celebration of love takes a musical turn. St. Dwynwen's Day, Wales' answer to Valentine's Day, is marked by love spoons intricately carved with symbols, expressing deep emotions.
These tokens of affection are more than just ornate carvings; they are symbols of commitment and intricate stories told through art.
Beyond Flowers and Chocolate in Denmark
Maybe it's because Flying Tiger hails from Copenhagen, but I imagine Danish pastimes involve a lot of creativity and handicrafts.
In the case of Denmark's Valentine's tradition, people will cut out decorative (and sometimes super intricate) snowflake-shaped paper letters. They hand these to significant others and friends along with pressed white flowers that are called snowdrops.
Valentine's Tradition in the Czech Republic
Though Valentine's Day was never a particularly popular holiday in the Czech Republic up until recently, many couples have since developed a ritual specific to the capital city.
Practiced on May 1st when spring is in full bloom, couples will make a pilgrimage to the grave site of the poet Karel Hynek Mácha in Petrin Park. It's said that exchanging kisses under a blossoming Cherry Tree will bring good luck in the following year.
While Valentine's Day is commonly seen as a Western holiday, plenty of countries in Asia have gladly adopted this holiday as a way to celebrate love.
Swapped Roles in Japan's Valentine's Day Tradition
In the land of the rising sun, Valentine's Day unfolds uniquely. Women take the lead by gifting men with chocolates on February 14th. It doesn't end there – a month later, on White Day, men reciprocate with their own gifts and good thoughts.
Japan also has its own special place for lovers to visit, similar to the Czech Republic. There's a temple in Osaka dedicated to lovers. It's here that you can wish upon good fortune for your relationship, be it new or old. Couples write love letters to each other on wooden notes and walk under a canopy of these suspended ornaments.
Wedding Bells in the Philippines
Over the Pacific, in the Philippines, Valentine's Day is a day for more than just love. It's a popular day for weddings, and mass weddings for sometimes hundreds of couples are organized to tie the knot. In some cases, the local municipalities may even foot the bill for the weddings!
Year-round Festivities in South Korea
South Koreans know how to do romance the right way, but sometimes the various couple holidays can be a lot to keep track of. Throughout the year, there are fifteen holidays dedicated to couples!
While chocolates and flowers are universal symbols of love, women typically express their affection on February 14th by showering men with gifts. Similarly to Japan, South Korea also celebrates White Day on March 14th, when men reciprocate the gestures.
Romance in Africa
In diverse landscapes from the bustling markets of Marrakech to the serene shores of Cape Town, the continent weaves tales of romance steeped in rich traditions and unique customs.
South Africa Is for the Bold
Venture to South Africa, where Valentine's Day is all about being bold. Beyond traditional gifts, young women usually in high school and college take a more direct approach to approaching a crush.
The woman will pin the names of their crushes to their sleeves and go to class for all to see, creating an atmosphere of playful flirtation that adds a touch of spontaneity to the celebration. As the old saying goes, a closed mouth doesn't get fed!
Chocolate Lovers in Ghana
Ghana is one of the world's highest cocoa producers, so it's no wonder that February 14th was deemed “National Chocolate Day” in 2007.
While this move was originally made to increase tourism in the country, it's now full of performances, music events, and restaurants that have themed menus for the special day.
Central & South America
Prepare to immerse yourself in the passionate embrace of South American Valentine's Day celebrations, where love ignites the spirit of fiestas. From the vibrant streets of Rio de Janeiro to the sultry Tango dance floors in Buenos Aires.
Guatemala Celebrates Friendship
As we wander through the colorful streets of Guatemala, we find another unique twist. Forget chocolates and roses; it's all about friendship there.
Known as the Day of Love and Friendship, Valentine's Day extends to celebrating the bond between friends, not just romantic partners. Imagine a day filled with laughter, shared memories, and the joy of companionship.
Brazil's Valentine's Tradition Includes Rituals & Magic
Couples typically celebrate both days if they're serious about one another. If a woman is single, she might perform a ritual (known as simpatias) in order to conjure a significant other to marry.
Sweetness Week in Argentina
Forget about just one single, measly day! Argentinians celebrate with what's called ‘Sweetness Week,’ an entire seven days dedicated to their amore.
However, Sweetness Week has its origins from a successful confectioners marketing campaign. Business plans aside, people in Argentina exchange candies for kisses all throughout the week.
How Do You Celebrate Valentine's Day?
Valentine's Day transcends country borders as a global celebration of love, each country creating its individual manifestation.
As we uncover these stories, let's ask ourselves: How does love uniquely express itself in our own lives and the lives of those around us? After all, in this journey of love, the most exciting chapter is the one yet to be written.