In honour of Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I decided to do some research into Valentine’s Day traditions around the world.
Firstly, what is Valentine’s Day?
We all know that Valentine’s Day occurs every year on the 14th February regardless of whether we celebrate it or not. But not all of us know why or what it is. At least I didn’t until doing a bit of research.
The truth behind St Valentine is slightly murky but the suggested theories are slightly more morbid than I expected for the day of love. Nevertheless, love was still the end-goal in all of them.
One contends that Valentine was a priest who performed marriage ceremonies in secret during the third century in Rome when Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. When Claudius found out, he ordered Valentine to death. Another theory suggests that an imprisoned Valentine sent a love letter before, his death on the 14th February, to the jailor’s daughter – who visited him during his confinement – and signed it “From your Valentine,” which is an expression still in used today.
(You can read more about the what of Valentine’s Day in that fabulous post by Chloe)
But, how does the tradition of celebrating the day of love differ around the world?
I’ve never really been big on celebrating the day so it’s no surprise that I wasn’t aware of the Valentine’s Day traditions in England. In order to bring their future husbands to their dreams, apparently women used to place five bay leaves on their pillows – one at each corner and on in the middle – the night before Valentine’s Day.
Apparently, in Norfolk, they have someone called Jack Valentine who is a santa-like character for Valentine’s Day. Children await knocks at their doors from Jack, and although they don’t catch a glimpse of him, they enjoy the sweets and small gifts left outside. Just like Santa, right?
Related post: The Girlfriend Tag
France is often dubbed as the one of the most romantic places in the world. So, it comes as little surprise that the first Valentine’s Day card apparently originated in France. Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. Today, Valentine’s Day cards remain a popular tradition in France and around the world. Cards are my personal favourite thing about the holiday.
Another traditional Valentine’s Day event in France was the loterie d’amour, which translates to the ‘drawing for love.’ Men and women would fill houses opposite each other and take turns at pairing off. If the men weren’t satisfied with their match they could leave. Any women left unmatched would gather at a bonfire afterwards to bad-mouth and burn pictures of the men who had wronged them. The tradition was eventually banned by the French government because it got so out of hand.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Valentine’s Day has only been celebrated in Denmark since the early 1990s. But they’ve had time to conjure up a few traditions.
A popular Danish Valentine’s Day tradition is the exchange of ‘lover’s cards’. Today, these consist of any card exchanged on Valentine’s Day. But when they were first introduced, they were transparent cards which showed a picture of the person giving the card presenting a gift to his sweetheart.
Men also give women joking letters, which consist of a funny poem or rhyme written on fancy paper. They sign the letters with anonymous dots. If a woman who receives ‘gaekkebrev’, as it’s called, and guesses who sent it to her, she earns herself an Easter egg later that year.
They also exchange pressed white flowers call snowdrops instead of roses.
Valentine’s Day tradition in South Korea lasts more than just a day. A variation of the holiday is celebrated monthly from February to April. The gift-giving begins on 14th February when the women spoil their men with chocolates, sweets and flowers. The roles reverse on 14th March – which is known as White Day – and the men spoil their lovers with chocolates and flowers as well as a fancy gift.
Singles aren’t left out though as they celebrate Black Day on 14th April. This is the day where single people mourn their solitary status by eating dark bowls of black bean-paste noodles.
Valentine’s Day tradition in Italy saw young, unmarried girls waking up before dawn to spot their future husbands. Apparently the first man a they saw on Valentine’s Day was the man she would marry within a year. If that didn’t happen, he would at least resemble the man she was going to marry.
Today, Italians celebrate Valentine’s Day like most people do, with gifts and romantic dinners. One of the most popular Valentine’s Day gifts in Italy are small, chocolate-covered hazelnuts. They come with a romantic quote printed in four languages. These are called Baci Perugina.
Have you heard of any of these traditions? Or do you have your own Valentine’s Day traditions?