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Celebrated annually on February 14, Valentine's Day is one of the few holidays that is enjoyed almost worldwide. In the United States, the romantic occasion is observed by exchanging greeting cards and treating loved ones to candy, flowers, gifts, and unforgettable meals. However, not culture marks the day of love in the same way, or even on February 14! Here are some fascinating Valentine's Day traditions from around the world.
If you enjoy exchanging Valentine's Day cards and candy with friends, you may want to steer clear of Germany. In this European nation, the day of love and romance is strictly reserved for adults. Since pigs are considered lucky, couples celebrate the day by exchanging pig figurines and photos. They also eschew chocolate in favor of heart-shaped ginger cookies with romantic messages written in icing.
Every Valentine's Day, women in Japan gift the men in their lives with one of two types of chocolates. The cheaper “Giri choco,” or "obligation chocolate," is handed out to casual friends, colleagues, and bosses, while the more expensive "Honmei choco," or "true-feeling chocolate," is reserved for boyfriends and husbands.
Japanese men return the favor on White Day, which is celebrated on March 14. Depending on the relationship, the presents can range from flowers to chocolates to fine jewelry. However, they must cost at least three times the value of what was received on Valentine's Day. South Korea, which also observes the fun tradition, has added its own twist with "Black Day" on April 14 for the men and women that don't get a gift on Valentine's Day or White Day. The singles — dressed in black from head-to-toe — mark the day by gathering at neighborhood restaurants to commiserate over steaming bowls of noodles cooked in black bean sauce.
In Denmark, which only began celebrating Valentine’s Day in the 1990s, loved ones exchange handmade cards containing pressed white flowers called snowdrops. Danish men often also give women a "gaekkebrev," or "joke letter," containing an original poem or rhyme. The sender's identity is only indicated in dots, one for each letter in the person’s name. If the recipient correctly guesses her secret admirer's name, he gives her a confectionary Easter egg on Easter Sunday. If she is stumped, she owes the sender of the gaekkebrev an egg instead.
In Wales, the romantic holiday is dedicated to Saint Dwynwen — the Welsh patron saint of lovers — and celebrated on January 25. Couples mark the day by gifting each other hand-crafted wooden spoons engraved with meaningful patterns and symbols. For example, a horseshoe means good luck, while a Celtic knot signifies everlasting love. The unusual tradition dates back to the early 17th century, when Welsh men showed their affection by giving the women they loved intricately-carved spoons. The utensils are also a favorite gift for other celebrations, including weddings, anniversaries, and new births.
The residents of the Central European country of Slovenia regard Saint Valentine, or "Zdravko," as one of their patron saints of spring. They believe he brings “the key to the roots" on February 14, and they spend the day planting in fields or gardens. The Slovenian version of Valentine's Day, dedicated to Saint George, is marked on March 12 and celebrated much like in the US — with gifts, chocolates, and flowers.
Do you know of a unique Valentine's Day tradition? If so, be sure to share it with us by adding your comments below.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Resources: Smithsonianmag.com, Wikipedia.org, learningenglish.voa.com, Rd.com, traveltriagle.com