Let me first state, before I go any further on this post: I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, and no, it’s not because I’m alone at this moment. Even during my last relationship I didn’t (and neither did she, so that’s not why it ended!). I’ve never believed or bought into the idea of making a single day more important than others. Why go for the big display of affection on one day when you should do it every day? I’m a hopeless sucker for romance, you could say, so I don’t just don’t focus on Valentine’s.
But, as a naturally curious fellow I’ve always been terribly attracted to how different cultures celebrate their special days, and Valentine’s is one of them. We’ve grown accustomed to the American way of doing things (sorry my nice US friends and readers), because that’s what we see on TV series and films and other media. The big heart-globes, the lavish gifts, the massive gestures, the reservations for a private, intimate and romantic evening, etc, etc. Yet there are many other countries and each of them has their own unique way of doing things and they’re all pretty lovable in their own way. (See what I did there?)
Since I’ve already gone through what the Americans do, I’ll move on to other countries. The following are some of the most interesting ones I came across while researching this. It would take much longer than this simple post to list how every community in the world celebrates this day:
United Kingdom/Ireland/Most of Europe to be honest: Across the pond the tradition is much more tame yet without losing any meaning. It’s customary for lovers (I really hate that word, sounds icky and corny) to exchange cards and gifts. There is no clear rule as to whom does the sending and both partners can do it. As to what the cards say, what kind they are and which gifts they exchange, well to each their own, but as I mentioned, they’re usually more tame. Not lavish gifts but something much more personal, something with a lot more meaning. It’s no unusual for the gifts to be handmade to show the care and the feelings that went into it.
In Wales on the other hand, they have St. Dwynwen’s day, which may be celebrated alongside or instead of Valentine’s the tradition sometimes calls for people to exchange Love Spoons. Yes, Love Spoons, intricately carved wooden spoons. And Norfolk has its own Valentine’s Santa Claus!
Venezuela: While things in my native country are somewhere between the American and European ways, the interesting thing about it is that at some point in history Valentine’s Day or Dia de los Enamorados (Day of those in love or if you’ll allow me to transliterate it: Lover’s Day) also became Dia de la Amistad (Friendship Day) so we lonely people could have a day for ourselves as well and for us to tell the people we’re in love with that we love them, without actually doing so, all under the guise of happy friendship day.
Japan: The Japanese always give things their own interesting spin and Valentine’s isn’t any different. Instead of a single day, in Japan it’s actually two distinct days. During Valentine’s the ladies give chocolates to the men they like and they in turn reciprocate during White Day. As I started writing this paper something occurred to me: How does this work for LGBT couples? Sadly I haven’t found a definite answer to this. Some suggest they celebrate valentine’s in the same way most western countries do, ignoring the White Day entirely.
South Korea: South Korea works like Japan, there’s Valentine’s and White Days, but the good people of SK have also taken to hold a romantic day every single month on the 14th: December 14th is Hug Day and June 14th is Kiss day, to give a couple of examples.
Honourable Mention – Une Loterie d’Amour: This one’s a discontinued tradition in France and it consisted of single men and women entering opposite-facing houses and calling at each other through the windows until each prospective couple was matched. Then if the male suitor found his potential date unattractive he could turn his back on her and she, along with the other scorned women, would build a large bonfire. In it they would throw items belonging to the men that rejected her as well as curse every member of the opposite sex. It’s not really surprising that this one got banned!
If you celebrate Valentine’s and you’ve found yourself in a bit of a rut, then how about you and your significant other change it up for a year and give one of these a try? It’s bound to be entertaining and it’ll confuse the hell out of everyone else, which is always fun! Just don’t do the lottery, that’s just bloody mean!
But if you’ve read this far, then read just this other bit: Don’t celebrate Valentine’s anymore and instead give your loved one all of your attention every single day. Don’t take them for granted and don’t let them ever think that you are. Take it from someone who’s loved and lost, every moment you spend with your partner is a gift and one you better not waste. In my case it was a gift, a privilege and an honour and I miss her every day.