Celebrating Valentine’s Day around the world


Lexi Eck, Staff Reporter

February 14th is known to most as the day of love.  The day where people can shower their significant others with chocolates, flowers, and other gifts.  They might go out to a nice dinner or simply stay in and watch a movie.  Just how Americans celebrate Valentine’s day in their own fashion, many other nations around the world have their own traditions for celebrating love.  Some of these traditions date back to the fifteenth century and others are as modern as the 1990’s.  Although the ways we show love around the world come in many different forms, everyone knows the importance of having a day to recognize and celebrate love.


Valentine’s day is a fairly new holiday in Denmark, and began being celebrated in the early 90’s.  Although, they have still put a Danish twist on February 14th.  Rather than exchanging red roses, friends and couples exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops.  They also started a tradition of exchanging “lover’s cards” which are any type of card given to a significant other.  “Lover’s cards” were originally small transparent sheets of paper that showed a picture of the card giver presenting a gift to their sweetheart.


Valentine’s Day doesn’t have much of a presence in Latvia, although they know the commercialized version of February 14th. Mrs. Larson, an English teacher at Arlington High School, lived in Latvia for a short amount of time in her life, teaching English to students.  “There was some stuff in the stores but it was like those little kid Valentines that little elementary school kids do, but it wasn’t much it was just a little bit,” she said.  On February 14th in her English class, some students cut out hearts and brought candy to celebrate since they knew Mrs. Larson was American and had seen the commercialism of the holiday on TV.


Paris, France is considered to be one of the most romantic cities in the world, so of course France has their own Valentine’s day traditions to celebrate lovers.  The first valentine’s day card was said to originate in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent his wife love letters while she was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415.  These cards are still a tradition in France and around the world.  

Another traditional valentine’s day event was the loterie d’amour or “drawing for love.” Men and women filled houses that faced one another, and then took turns calling out to one another and pairing off.  The men who weren’t satisfied with their match could simply leave their woman for another, and the women left unmatched gathered afterward for a bonfire.  During this bonfire, women burned pictures of the men who wronged them and yelled out swears and insults at the opposite sex. The event became so rowdy and uncontrollable that the French government eventually banned this tradition completely.

South Korea

Valentine’s day is a very popular holiday for young couples in South Korea and different variations of the holiday are celebrated over the course of three months (Feb-April).  February 14th is the first of these days and is for the women to treat their significant other with chocolates, flowers, and cards.  March 14th is a holiday known as White day, which is the second day of the three.  This day is for men to shower their sweetheart with chocolates, flowers, and gifts.  The last of the three days is April 14th, known as Black Day.  This last day is for singles to mourn their solitary status by eating dark bowls of jajangmyeon, or black bean-paste noodles.


Spain is another country that is considered to be the destination for love, which makes Valentines Day an important holiday for Spaniards.  In Barcelona and throughout Catalonia, April 23rd is for couples to celebrate their love with a holiday called El Dia de la rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El Dia de la libre (The Day of the Book).  During a trip to Spain, Señor Duskin, a Spanish teacher at Arlington High School, got to experience this holiday.  He said “boys would give girls a rose, either white or red and the girls were supposed to give the boys a book.”  Although this sounds unusual to do, this tradition has been around since the early 20th century, having to do with Christianity.  Hence the Catalan saying “A rose for love and a book forever.”


In London, women used to place five bay leaves on their pillows (one on each corner and one on the center) to bring dreams of their future husbands.  Sometimes they would also wet the bay leaves with rosewater to bring luck.

In Norfolk, Jack Valentine was the Valentine’s Day Santa Clause.  Children would wait to hear Jack Valentine knock on their front doors, and although they don’t catch a glimpse of him, they would enjoy the candy and small gifts left on their porches.  


In Brazil, Carnival is scheduled to be in February or March every year, so Brazilians skip the celebration on February 14th and celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “lovers day” on June 12th instead.  In addition to the usual exchange of chocolates, flowers and cards, festivals and performances are held throughout the country.  This day is less for the lovers in Brazil and more for love in general.  People celebrate love with their friends and family by exchanging gifts and having dinner with them.

South Africa

Like many places in the world, South Africans celebrate by giving gifts, chocolates, and flowers.  It is also customary for women to wear their heart on their sleeve by pinning the names of their love interests to their shirtsleeves.  This is an ancient Roman tradition called Lupercalia.  In some cases, this is how South African men learn about their secret admirers.  


In all the ways that love is celebrated around the world, every country has a time and tradition where people can celebrate their love.  Every unique way of showing love is important in our world where there is so little of it today.  Even if someone may not have a love interest this year on valentine’s day, there are many ways to celebrate the day of love.  They can wear their heart on their sleeve, have dinner with their family, or put some bay leaves on their pillow.  No matter where we are in the world, Valentine’s day is important to everyone.