On Wednesday, February 14, many of us will shower our loved ones with cards, chocolates, flowers, and even expensive jewelry. The celebration of love as we know it, developed in 1861 when candy maker Richard Cadbury came up with the brilliant idea of selling chocolates in heart-shaped packages. Valentine’s Day has since evolved into one of the biggest consumer spending days of the year.
The National Retail Federation expects the 55% of Americans celebrating the holiday in 2018, to expend an average of $143.56 for a total of $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year. While buying gifts for the people we love is a great way to show our appreciation, it is not the only way. Here are some fun and unusual traditions from around the world.
Don’t expect to find Welsh citizens exchanging boxes of chocolates on February 14. The country’s residents associate the day of romance with Saint Dwynwen, the patron saint of lovers, and celebrate it, slightly earlier, on January 25. The tradition, which has been around since the 17th century, entails exchanging wooden love spoons that incorporate traditional symbols like hearts for love, horseshoes for good luck, and wheels to indicate support. The cutlery, which is now a popular choice of gift even for weddings, anniversaries, and births, is of course purely ornamental and not practical for daily use.
In Japan, Valentine’s Day is observed by women giving men one of two types of chocolates: “Giri-choco” (obligation chocolate), or “Honmei-choco.” The former is designed for friends, colleagues, and bosses, while Honmei-choco, which is usually homemade, is reserved for boyfriends and husbands. Men return the favor on White Day, which is celebrated a month later, on March 14, with gifts that range from flowers to chocolates and even jewelry, depending on the relationship. In addition to being white, the gifts are also traditionally worth three times the value of what the men received. It is therefore not surprising that other Asian countries like South Korea, Vietnam, China, and Hong Kong have also adopted this fun tradition.
Along with going out for a romantic dinner, buying fragrant flowers, and being surrounded by images of Cupid, South African women also celebrate the popular holiday by wearing their hearts on their sleeves — literally. They pin the name of their sweetheart to their clothing, which is how some men discover their secret admirer.
The Danish who began celebrating Valentine’s Day relatively late, in the 1990s, have added their own twist to the holiday. Instead of exchanging roses and candies, friends and sweethearts give each other white flowers, called snowdrops. Men also give women an anonymous gaekkebrev, a “joking letter,” that contains a funny poem or rhyme. If the recipient can guess the name of the sender, she is rewarded with an Easter egg later in the year.
Do you have a fun Valentine’s Day tradition? Be sure to share it with us in the comments below.
Resources: japanzone.com, huffpo.com, wikipedia.org, boredpanda.com, intrepidtravel.com