Valentines Traditions Around The World

Valentines Traditions Around The World

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and with us being located in the heart of Oxford, a multi-cultural
city, we’ve been inspired to explore some of the traditions and ways to celebrate 14 th February from
around the world. We’ve covered all the continents and here are the most interesting rituals that
we’ve stumbled upon.


The place to start is the country which has really created the current set up for this modern day
holiday, the USA. They start celebrating young with students in school all exchanging cards with each
other. Couples exchange gifts of chocolates, sweets, flowers and cards. Their most popular ‘candy’ is
Conversation Hearts with messages like “Kiss Me” or “Be Mine”. Expectation generally sits with the
men more than women to deliver on this day.


Over in Asia it’s the opposite story. The Japanese and South Korean women are the ones who spoil
the subject of their affections on 14 th February with specific types of chocolate depending on their
relationship status. Then one month later on 14 th March, White Day is acknowledged in which the
original recipients are expected to return the favour by giving their loved ones gifts to two or three
times the value of the chocolates.


For Australian’s the focus is on giving beautiful Valentine’s cards. The origin of this tradition
apparently traces back to the gold rush in the Ballarat Mine in Victoria, somewhere around the mid-
nineteenth century. The surge in status and wealth of the miners caused it became tradition for
them to lavish their beloveds with extravagant cards, intricately designed and beautifully wrapped.

Whilst there are no permanent human occupants in Antarctica there are natives, it’s just that they’re
penguins! Although not exclusive to Valentine’s Day these birds have a special courtship ritual of the
male presenting the female with the significant and rare gift of a pebble. It’s significant because
Antarctic penguins make their nests out of pebbles and small rocks to protect them from the cold,
and rare because these are hard to find on the frozen, barren continent. If the female accepts this
generous gift they bond and mate for life. How romantic!

Celebrating for only one day is nowhere near passionate enough for Argentinians in South America.
Although they do recognise Valentine’s Day on 14 th February they also hold a festival of love called
‘Sweetness Week’ in July. As the name suggests it’s an entire week celebrating love, where kisses are
exchanged for sweets.

Anonymous love letters to crushes are a little too subtle for South Africans. They literally wear their
hearts on their sleeves on Valentine’s Day following the old-age Roman festival of Lupercalia. It is
customary for young girls pin the name of their love on their sleeve for all to see.

Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä in Finland, which means ‘Friend’s Day’. For anyone flying solo
that’s the place to be! It’s all about celebrating friendship, exchanging gifts of pink roses and cards
with the greeting ‘Happy Friend’s Day’ so no one needs to worry about feeling left out.

Here in England a historical tradition was for women to place five bay leaves on the corners and
middle of their pillows on the eve of Valentine’s Day. This was said to bring them dreams of their
future husbands. However, more recently our celebrations have fallen more in line with those in
America with gifts, cards and romantic meals.

So, there we go, options from all around the world to inspire you this Valentine’s Day. Whether you
plan to spend 14th February like the Argentinians and celebrate with your love for a week, like the
Finnish and gather all your best friends together for a fun evening or to create your own traditions
just remember to spread the love. After all, as the saying goes ‘it’s not love that makes the world go
around but it’s what makes the ride worthwhile’.

Posted by Sam Mansell
1st February 2019

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