Whether you regard Valentine’s Day as an ancient celebration of love or a modern-day way to make your single friends jealous, you can’t deny that it’s an important holiday here in the U.S.
While we are all familiar with our own Valentine’s Day traditions, you’d be surprised to learn how many countries have their own unusual ways of celebrating love. From anonymous love riddles to an entire day devoted to chocolate, here’s a list of the fantastic Valentine’s Day traditions you can find all over the world!
Keep clicking if you’re looking for fresh ideas this year!
The Difference Between “Boyfriend” And “Friend” In Japan Comes Down To Chocolate
Nothing says love like homemade chocolates! Any loyal anime fan can tell you that on Valentine’s Day in Japan, men receive “Honmei-choko” (that’s “homemade chocolates”) as an expression of love from the women in their life.
You don’t need us to tell you that men who receive homemade chocolates are culturally considered very lucky. Additionally, women in Japan give obligation chocolates to close friends and acquaintances. These chocolates are considered less unique and are usually store bought.
A month later, on March 14th, the Japanese celebrate a holiday called “White Day” where men give the women in their lives chocolates and gifts. Giving a gift to a woman that gave you Honmei-choko should be about two to three times more expensive than whatever they got you.
Finland And Estonia Are About Extremes
Raise your hand if you love your friends! In Finland and Estonia, Valentine’s Day is considered more of a “Friendship Festival” rather than a day to celebrate romantic love.
The holiday is called Ystävän Päivä in Finnish and Sõbrapäev in Estonian. Both mean “Friends Day,” and friends exchange cards and gifts to express how much they care for one other.
But remember the old cliche that “love is friendship set on fire,” at least according to Jeremy Taylor, which may explain why this day is a popular day for Finns and Estonians to get engaged and married. All the best lovers start as friends!
France – Fast Hookups And Jilted Women
The City of Lights has an ever-present feeling of romance, so it’s no surprise that they too have an unusual Valentine’s Day tradition. During “une loterie d’amour,” which translates to “drawing for love,” single men and women enter houses that face each other and take turns calling out to one another until they’re paired off.
If a man is unhappy with his match, he simply waits until another man calls out to her. And while those that are paired off go out on dates, single women left without partners throw a big ceremonial bonfire where they all throw in pictures and objects of the men that rejected them.
Which should sound familiar to any Waiting to Exhale fans. The French government has now officially banned the ceremony because of how rowdy the jilted women would get.
Wales Swaps Roses For Spoons
In Wales, they celebrate “St. Dwynwen’s Day” (the patron saint of lovers) on January 25th, which is their equivalent of Valentine’s Day. This holiday is based on an old Welch legend about ill-fated lovers Princess Dwynwen and Maelon.
Because the pair were forbidden to be together, the princess fled into the woods and encountered an angel that gave her a potion that would cool her romantic feelings for Maelon. But instead, it turned Maelon into a statue of ice.
Today, Welshman create decorative spoons that they give to women they are courting or hope to marry. The spoons all have unique decorative handles that represent their love and desire. For example, one might make a spoon with a handle in the shape of a key to symbolize that their beloved has the key to their heart.
Norfolk Has Their Own Holiday Mascot
Did you ever wonder what would happen if Valentine’s Day and Christmas had a baby? Of course you did! In Norfolk, England, their St. Valentine’s Day celebration features a Santa Claus-like figure known as Jack Valentine, or “Old Father Valentine.”
The cuddly and mysterious character of Jack Valentine is known to knock on the doors of children on Valentine’s Day Eve and leave them small toys and treats. No one quite knows how this tradition got started, but it has endured for generations. If you think this tradition is unusual wait till you get further down on the list!
Denmark And Norway Hook Up With Easter In A Fun Way
Valentinsdag (or Valentine’s Day) was not celebrated in Denmark or Norway until very recently, and has been heavily influenced by how we celebrate in the west.
Still, they add a quirky and endearing tradition that makes it uniquely Danish and Norwegian. “Gaekkebrev” are humorous rhyming love notes or poems that men send anonymously to women on Valentine’s Day. The only clue to their identity is a series of dots at the bottom of the note representing how many letters are in the sender’s name. If the object of their affection guesses their name correctly, they owe them an Easter egg on Easter that year. If not, she owes him one.
Taiwan And Thailand Preach Abstinence
In Taiwan and Thailand, they celebrate the traditions of Valentine’s Day and White Day just as Japan and South Korea do, except they’re reversed. Men make chocolates for the object of their affection, while women reciprocate with gifts and chocolate on White Day.
Also, in Bangkok, Thailand, the media and various religious leaders urge couples to visit local temples rather than engage in sexual activity on Valentine’s Day. It is believed that this day of abstinence will strengthen the bond of marriage. If you think that’s an unusual way to spend your Valentine’s Day, keep clicking!
South Korea’s Day For Singles
South Korea completely mirrors Valentine’s Day and White Day celebrations that occur in Japan. However, South Korea takes it one step further with an additional celebration on April 14th known as Black Day.
On Black Day, single people that did not receive any gifts or chocolates on Valentine’s Day or White Day all meet up to eat jajangmyeon (black noodles). Some see this tradition as a time to celebrate your single status, while others regard it as a time to mourn your lack of a love life. Additionally, South Korea has a ton of romantic festivals and celebrations that they acknowledge throughout the year, all of which fall on the 14th of each month.
Italy Gets A Bit Morbid
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and on Valentine’s Day, Romans visit Saint Valentine’s skull. The skull is displayed in the Basilica of Santa Maria, and is covered in flowers that have been left by visitors. Saint Valentine is the patron saint of lovers because he helped early Christian couples marry in secret.
To this day, Valentine’s Day is a popular day to get married on in Rome. Those that visit the skull before their nuptials are said to have good luck. Visiting a skull isn’t the most romantic thing to do, but we’re not here to judge!
Mexico Is All About Friends
The Mexican version of Valentine’s Day is quite similar to ours. They celebrate by exchanging flowers, candies and taking their loved ones out to eat. However, one big difference is that Mexicans usually celebrate friendship on Valentine’s Day rather than romantic love.
Known as El Día del Amor y la Amistad (or, “The Day of Love and Friendship”), Mexicans exchange heart-shaped balloons with their friends with the phrase “Te Amo” or “I Love You” written on them. Mexicans have long revered and respected the sacred bond of friendship. In fact, there are many ancient Aztec writings on the subject.
Malaysia Has A Fruity Tradition
Orange you glad you’re in love? On the Malaysian version of Valentine’s Day, they celebrate a courtship ritual that takes place on the seventh day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar.
Women write their phone numbers on oranges and throw them in the nearest river. Then they pray that the man of their dreams will find the orange and call them. Should a fruit vendor happen to find one of these oranges, they will sell them as lucky fruit. You have to admit, it’s a love tradition that has a peel! Fine, no more orange puns.
Brazil Is All About Finding Your Soulmate
The Brazilian equivalent of Valentine’s Day is called Dia dos Namaorados, which translates to “Day of the Enamored,” and is celebrated on June 12th. It is traditional on this day for single Brazilians to write down the name of all their crushes and put them in a hat.
Whatever name you pick at random is supposed to be the person you’re meant to be with. This holiday is followed by Saint Augustine’s day on the 13th, and because Saint Augustine is the patron saint of marriage, it is not uncommon for engaged couples to get married on either the 12th or the 13th. Also, it is traditional for single people to purchase small statues of Saint Augustine. It is said that if you keep the figure in an upside-down position, it will eventually lead you to the person of your dreams.
Germany And Pigs
Don’t go bacon my heart! While you can’t put lipstick on a pig or throw pearls before swine in Germany, apparently you can dress them up and take them out. On Valentine’s Day, Germans create and decorate tiny pig statues or figures to express their love.
Then at dinner, they present the statues to the object of their affection along with gifts and flowers. The pig statues are commonly decorated with flower patterns and other fun embellishments. The pig statues are supposed to be representational of love and lust. It’s also traditional to give the object of your affection a large gingerbread cookie for Valentine’s Day, as well.
In The Philippines, Everyone Gets Married
It’s a nice day for a white wedding! If you’re looking for non-traditional wedding ideas, try visiting the Philippines on Valentine’s Day with your fiancé. Every year on Valentine’s Day, the Philippines celebrates by holding mass weddings.
Thousands of couples gather at malls and other public places for a huge ceremony. The Philippines has also become a popular tourist destination for couples looking to renew their vows on Valentine’s Day. A record number of 4,000 couples were married or remarried in the Philippines in 2014. Wait, if your wedding anniversary falls on Valentine’s Day, does that mean you have to buy one gift or two?
Go To Ghana For Your Chocolate Fix
It’s all about the chocolate! On Valentine’s Day, it is National Chocolates Day in Ghana. Ghana is one of the largest exporters of Cocoa, so the tourism missionaries created this day to celebrate that fact. Dubbed CHOCOFEST, tourists can enjoy many a delicious chocolate.
Inspired events throughout the day include culinary contests to chocolate tastings to celebrate, and chefs make unique chocolate creations especially for the day. If you want to see where all of this delicious chocolate comes from, you can visit the Tetteh Quarshie Cocoa Farm. Sounds like a sweet way to spend Valentine’s Day.
Slovenia Not Feeling The Love, Just The Harvest
February 14th marks the first day back working in the fields in Slovenia. Zdravko, or Saint Valentine, is considered the patron saint of springtime. This is because there is a Slovene proverb that states “St. Valentine brings the keys of roots.”
Therefore, people believe that it is good luck to begin working in the fields and Vineyards on Valentine’s Day. While Valentine’s Day is not a romantic celebration in Slovenia, they do have many other days when they celebrate love such as Saint Vincent’s Day on February 22nd and Saint Gregory’s Day on March 12th. This is one of the few observances of Valentine’s that isn’t really that concerned with love.
South Africa Has One Unique Practice …
Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve! In South Africa, they practice many Valentine’s Day traditions that are inspired by the west. However, they do practice one unique tradition where single people will write the name of their crush on a piece of paper, pin it on their sleeve and keep it there all day.
This celebration is known as Lupercalia, in reference to the ancient Roman fertility festival that preceded Valentine’s Day in the west. Additionally, several festivals and parades take place in South Africa on Valentine’s Day. Some of these celebrations last for a week.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match, find me a find, catch me catch! Tu B’av falls on the 15th of Av, or August. This ancient Hebrew holiday went through an extended period of not being celebrated, but is now making a modern day resurgence.
The holiday is very similar to Valentine’s Day, however. One common tradition is for people to play matchmaker for their single friends and family members. It is also a popular day for marriage proposals, weddings, and renewal of vows. Traditionally, the celebration starts on the night of the 14th and lasts all day on the 15th because this is the night of the full moon on the lunar calendar. Many cultures associate the moon with love, romance, and fertility.
China Has One Of The Most Unique Valentine’s Day Legends
Lucky number 7! The equivalent of Valentine’s Day in China is Qixi, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. According to Chinese folklore, Zhinu, the daughter of the Heavenly King, and a lowly cow herder met, fell in love, married and had twins together.
When Zhinu’s father learned of her marriage, he sent her mother to bring her back to the stars. But after hearing her cries for her husband and children, her father relented and allowed her to visit her family one night a year on Qixi. Single women prepare offerings of fruit and other desserts for Zhinu on Qixi in order to be blessed with true love. Married couples go to the temple to pray for a long, happy life together. Later that night, people stargaze so they can see the stars Vega and Altair, said to represent Zhinu and her lover as they move closer together.
Guatemala Basically Turns Into Carnival
In Guatemala, Valentine’s Day is known as El Día del Cariño, which is a celebration that focuses on both romantic love and the bond between friends. Because of this, it’s traditional for old friends to reach out to each other on this day and for family and friends to get together for dinner.
They celebrate this holiday by throwing numerous parades and pageants similar to Carnival. In Guatemala City, people wear masks adorned with feathers and beads and dress in costumes inspired by the Mayans. Much like the celebrations held in South Africa, these parades are known to last for at least a week.