Valentine’s traditions from around the world
Love is a universal thing; it transcends borders, languages and even time zones. That's not to say we don't all celebrate it in our own special ways, though. Valentine's Day in the UK might be a case of dinner, movie and roses for many, but elsewhere things are different.
Below are some of the weird and wonderful romantic traditions from around the world
In many western cultures, it's normal for men to spoil their female partners when February 14th arrives. Six thousand miles away in Japan, however, the opposite is true - women are encouraged to shower the men in their lives with gifts. "Honmei-choco" - or true feelings chocolate - is given to those of romantic interest, while "giri-choco" - obligation chocolate - is designated for friends and colleagues. Everyone's a winner!
The tradition started back in the 1930s, when a confectioner decided to run a Valentine's Day promotion targeting foreigners. The idea took off and later spread to other chocolate-makers - the rest is history!
Exactly a month later, on March 14, the favours are returned on an occasion called 'White Day'. This also takes place in South Korea.
In Wales, people celebrate St. Dwynwen's Day, dedicated to the patron saint of lovers. On this day, aside from the usual flowers and chocolates, it's customary for Welsh men to gift their wives, girlfriends and crushes a 'love-spoon'. It's a tradition that likely originated among male sailors, who would intricately carve decorations into wooden spoons to show their interest in a member of the opposite sex.
The chosen designs would be personalised to the recipient; a horseshoe represents luck, while a padlock may mean security. This tradition still lives on today, too - some even incorporate more modern designs.
It's often said that Valentine's Day is the worst time of year if you're single - seeing everyone loved up when you're alone is never fun. Not to worry, friends are more important anyway! At least that's the spirit in Finland, where instead of love, people celebrate 'Friends Day' on February 14. Ystävänpäivä, to use its proper name, involves sending cards and gifts to your closest chums, whether you fancy them or not.
All of that said, it does tend to be a popular day for proposals, so there is some romantic element to enjoy. Fun fact: Friends Day is also celebrated in nearby Estonia, where it's called sõbrapäev.
It's all fun and games over in Denmark, where it's traditional for admirers to exchange sweet poems known as 'gaekkebrev' - which loosely translates as "joke letters". These original rhymes are written on a single piece of paper, on which the sender creates decorative patterns. The game element comes at the end, where there will be a series of dots equal to the number of letters in the sender's name. If the recipient guesses the identity of their admirer correctly, they're supposed to be given an Easter egg later in the year.
So what will you send your Valentine this year? If you're separated by miles of land and sea, you could send them a lover's care package - we've even put some ideas together for you here. Whatever you go for, though, Happy Valentine's Day!
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