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Valentine's Day tradition
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Valentine’s Day traditions around the world

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?

England

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

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.

Denmark

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.

South Korea

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.

Italy

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?

Photo by Leonardo Wong on Unsplash

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32 COMMENTS

  • writingthebluesaway

    I didn’t know any of these facts, they’re so interesting. I don’t know why but the thought of the unmatched women burning pictures of the men and bad mouthing them made me laugh haha! Also interesting that some celebrate a day for women to give to men and vice versa, it makes it more equal as I think a lot of the pressure is usually on the man!x

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      It seems a bit of a brutal tradition, haha! But definitely appreciate the equality in some countries celebrations! x

  • Lauren

    This is such a great read, interesting to see how much it differs around the world! Clear to see how much effort and research you put into this post too 🙂 x

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thanks, lovely! x

  • Hollie George

    This was so interesting! I never really thought about other countries traditions for the day and was surprised that it seems to be a big thing in South Korea. I like the idea of having a day for each partner and then the singles, that sounds like fun. 😊

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      I had no idea it was so big over there either! So interesting to see how different the celebrations around the world are! x

  • Seeking Wonderful

    That was so much fun to read! In Slovenia we have our original holiday for lovers. It is called Gregorjevo and it is celebrated on March 12th. On the eve of Gregorjevo people float miniature houses and boats with candles inside down the river. There is another one. The first bird a girl would see on Gregorjevo will tell her what her future husband would be like.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      This is so interesting and it sounds so cute! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂 x

  • This is a really fun post. Very interesting. Keep up the good work. 🙂

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thank you, lovely! x

  • Anaïs N.

    I actually don’t care about Valentine’s Day but you got my curiosity with the title!!! This was such an interesting read so thanks for sharing xx

    Anaïs | http://anais-n.com

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thanks, Anaïs! Glad I could rope you in and I’m glad the content was actually worth a read! 🙂 xx

  • Lavrax

    Omg the one about South Korea killed me. April 14th sounds like the most depressing day for single people!!!! Why are they mourning omg. So bizarre. This just honestly distracted me from all the other ones, my mind is blown. I’m gonna need to read more on South Korea 😂

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      I couldn’t believe it when I read it. So funny and so brilliant 😂

  • This is so interesting! I honestly can’t keep the origin of Valentine’s Day straight… There are so many possibilities. I love the countries you chose to highlight as well.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      The research into the origin of Valentines day was the hardest bit about this post because there were so many different explanations, haha! Thanks, Alex! x

  • Erin

    This is so interesting! I love how it’s similar but different for every country. I also love reading the history- isn’t it funny how we celebrate a holiday and don’t know why it originated?!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      It actually is really funny that the holiday is so widely celebrated but we don’t really know why, haha, I didn’t think about that! x

  • That’s true about Jack Valentine, apparently he does come round but not to anyone I know! These are really interesting!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Oh wow, I didn’t really know how much truth there was to that when I was researching it but glad to know it actually is a thing! x

  • entermyworldweb

    These are soo interesting! I sort of have heard some things about valentines and the story behind it.. but not around the world. This is such a great post! 😃 xx

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thank you so much, lovely! x

  • Geraldine

    I never knew about any of these traditions, but I think that they are really interesting! The celebration of being single in South Korea doesn’t sound so good though … black bean paste noodles sound more like a punishment! 🤣 Thanks for sharing Han! <3

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Haha, I’ve never eaten/heard of them but I’ll take your word for it! 😂x

  • Chloe Jane

    This is super interesting! I have never heard of the tradition for England with Jack Valentine, that’s news to me haha! I love the South Korea one, I love that singles celebrate by eating noodles, that sounds like a great celebration! Thank you for my lil mention too! ❤️

    Chloe Chats xx

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      I was confused when I initially research it because I’d never heard of it either! So interesting to see how the holiday differs around the world! And you’re welcome, lovely, such a great post! x

  • intheflux

    Wow I’m surprised Denmark started celebrating Valentine’s Day only fairly recently!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      I know, I was surprised by that as well!

  • Abby

    The tradition in France is HILARIOUS. I would love to burn pictures and bad mouth men hahaha okay, jk that’s mean. I also like the idea of a month long VDay like in South Korea. I love the day because I love love. Even being single, it makes me happy. I loved reading about these other traditions. I think it is so cool that worldwide we celebrate the same holiday but we make it our own. Great post, Han!! <3

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      I love your love for Valentines and love, its so contagious! The French really don’t mess around, haha! Thanks, Abby! 🙂 xx

  • stephbl0gs

    Cool!! I wish we had jack valentine… maybe a new tradition I can start in Canada 🇨🇦 lol who’s with me!!

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