Valentine’s Day Rituals Around the World

14. February 2011

For many people, Valentine’s Day revolves around red roses, boxes of chocolates, and greeting cards emblazoned with goofy slogans like “I Love You Bear-y Much”.

But in other parts of the world, Valentine’s Day is celebrated very differently. If you’ve ever wondered how people spend February 14th in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, read on!

1. Japan

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is just the first part of a two-part cycle of gift giving. On February 14th, it’s traditional for women to give chocolate to the men in their life. Then, on March 14th, the men return the favor during a celebration known as “White Day”.

Homemade gifts are the most prized during Valentine’s Day, whereas the White Day gifts tend to be three times more expensive than gifts given in February. Common White Day gifts include marshmallows, lingerie, or jewelry.

One of the best White Day gifts that a male Japanese high school student might give is the second button from his jacket. Because this button is right over the heart, giving it away to a girl is one way of confessing that he has a crush on her.

2. Wales

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Wales in pretty much the same way the holiday is celebrated in American and the rest of the UK. However, many Welsh people also celebrate a second Valentine’s Day.

It’s called Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St. Dwynwen’s Day), and it’s held on January 25th. This holiday honors St. Dwynwen (pictured above), the “patron saint of Welsh lovers”. This “second Valentine’s Day” has become a popular day for hosting concerts and parties.

3. Finland

In Finland, Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä: “Friend’s day”. It’s kind of a mouthful, but the sentiment is nice. In Finland, the day isn’t just about romance, but rather about taking the time to honor everyone in your life that you care about, including friends and family.

The holiday wasn’t officially recognized in Finland until 1987. Since then, however, the date has become increasingly popular for couples looking to get engaged or get married.

4. Ghana

In Ghana, Valentine’s Day is less about romance and more about sweepstakes. The holiday is often marked by numerous radio station contests. Several years ago, popular radio station Joy FM spent more than $20,000 on Valentine’s Day giveaways. This stat is made even more impressive when you learn that the minimum wage in Ghana is equivalent to $1.30 a day in US currency.
Residents of Ghana have only embraced Valentine’s Day in the last decade or so. Before Ghana became exposed to Western culture, it was very uncommon for men and women to hold hands in public. However, with Western love songs dominating the airwaves, public opinions about PDA have begun to change, making Valentine’s Day an increasingly popular holiday.

5. Iran

This year, the government of Iran has decided that Valentine’s Day is a threat. The government will discourage anyone who wants to celebrate, promote, or create any goods related to Valentine’s Day. This is because the government wants to stem the spread of cultural influences from the Western world.
Therefore, the Iranian printer’s union has announced that no one in the union should engage in printing any cards featuring Valentine’s Day iconography like hearts or red roses.
“Honoring foreign celebrations is the spread of Western culture,” said the union’s head, Ali Nikou Sokhan, ILNA news agency reported. “Printing and producing any products related to Valentine’s Day, including posters, brochures, advertising cards, boxes with the symbols of hearts, half-hearts, red roses and any activities promoting this day are banned. Authorities will take legal action against those who ignore the ban.”


Maybe you already know who you will spend Valentine’s Day with this year. Perhaps you are still looking for a date. But however you plan to spend February 14th, chances are that you will be celebrating the holiday in a way that is similar to millions of other romantics all around the globe.



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