St Valentines Day Customs Around The World
14th February, St Valentines day, the day for lovers, young and old, chocolate and roses and cheesy cards.
Reputed to have begun in ancient Rome around 496AD with the festival of Lupercalia held in mid February. Girls and boys drew names from a box and would become girlfriend and boyfriend for the duration of the festival.
Of course the church hijacked it later on, and used it to celebrate St Valentine. A Roman Priest executed for refusing to deny Christ and associated with courtly love.
Being UK based we usually think of a dozen red roses and chocolates or champagne. Along with a card extolling our feelings of love. But how do other countries celebrate it?
Being Japanese, they tend to complicate it as usual. On the 14th girls give chocolates. However they do this in two ways. The first is called giri-choco and are pre made chocolates. These will be given to friends, family, perhaps work colleagues. Men they don’t love romantically. The second type are Honmei-choco, being either more expensive, or traditionally hand made by the girl. Given to their partners, boyfriends, lovers etc.
Traditionally men would only accept these from girl they were interested in.
On 14th March the menfolk would return the gesture three fold on what is called white day.
The south Koreans, follow pretty much the same pattern as the Japanese. However, on the month after white day, they have an additional celebration called Black day. This is for all those unfortunate enough not to have received gifts on the other days. They get together and eat black noodles.
The Filipino’s celebrate in much the same ways as in the West. However, there is also an added incentive for lovers on the 14th. Many municipalities provide free weddings on the day. The cakes, flowers, venue, banquet and even the rings are all provided free of charge. This leads to mass weddings around the country on St Valentines day.
Or Valentinsdag in Norwegian. Much like the UK, with meals, roses, lingerie and so on. They do have one old belief that birds mated on this day to bear their offspring. And it’s now believed that seeing birds mate is a sign of true love. TBH I don’t think I have ever seen birds mating. In fact I am not sure I would recognise what they were doing if I did, assuming the tradition refers to the feathered kind.
Alla hjärtans dag, or All Hearts Day as our Swedish cousins refer to it. They prefer jellied candies and pastries to our traditional chocolates. It has only been an occasion in Sweden since the 60’s, so it isn’t as widely celebrated as in other countries.
Our Danish friends have a tradition called Gækkebreve , or Snowdrop letter. They send the object of the affection a letter, but sign it with a series of dots for their name. The receiver must try and work out who it is from, and if they get it correct are rewarded with an Easter egg on Easter Sunday.
Hmm, an unusual custom and not exactly the height of chivalry. French singletons would call out to each other across the street to be paired up. But if the mane didn’t quite fancy the woman he was allowed to reject her and try again. The sadly outed woman would gather together to burn photos and other reminders of the suitors who had given them the thumbs down, as a sort of group ‘therapy’. Eventually the government banned the practise. No doubt some woman felt better burning the real item rather than the photo.
This early form of speed dating was christened “une loterie d’amour”, the lottery of love.
The Welsh evidentially, don’t traditionally go in for St Valentine. Their nearest version is Saint Dwynwen’s day on 25th January. Here the men present a gift of a wooden spoon to their love interest. Various symbols and patterns with special meanings were carved into the spoon. A strange custom when presenting a wooden spoon elsewhere usually has negative connotations.
Those randy Latinos can’t manage with just the one day. They drag it out a whole week, starting on 13th and running to the 20th, sweetness week encourages the swapping of kisses for candy. The week ends with friendship day so no one is left out.
The Springboks mirror the UK with a lot of the Valentine celebrations. However they do also follow in the footsteps of the original Roman celebration by pinning the names of their lovers on to their sleeves. Luckily they don’t follow the original rules to closely, as the Romans would sacrifice goats, then run through the streets naked, whipping the women folk to increase their fertility.
Most of the countries around the world have adopted the Western celebration of St Valentines day, with flower giving, chocolate and other gifts. Some Islamic countries are rather hostile to the holiday, and some outright ban it.
If you want a Valentine treat for your staff, a party or even as a private service for your loved one, many of our treats such as Churros, Valentine crepes, doughnuts can be made with a pink dough to suit the occasion, or we can supply melted pink chocolate as a topping.