Not everyone needs chocolate and diamonds to fete the day of love…
Love is the international language, after all, so it’s unsurprising that other countries celebrate Valentine’s Day. However, not everyone around the world thinks of Feb. 14 as the day of chocolate, red roses and giant teddy bears. So how do others around the world fete the day of love and romance?
- AUSTRALIA: Australians celebrate in much the same way we do, but men are responsible for buying far more cards than women are.
- BRAZIL: The Brazilians are another nationality that don’t celebrate Valentine’s on Feb. 14, so it means nothing! However, they do celebrate Dia dos Namorados (Day of the Enamored) on June 12, a day chosen to fete love because it’s before St. Anthony’s Day (the marriage saint). The Brazilians might have something here: St. Anthony is meant to bless marriages, and as the divorce rate there is .26 per 1,000 people to our 4.95 per 1,000, I’d say he’s doing his job!
- CHINA: Bam! China doesn’t celebrate their version of Valentine’s Day until late summer, Qi Xi (Night of Sevens) until late summer, but they do semi observe our holiday with gifts and cards. Their V-Day is exponentially more interesting, I’d say. Loved up couples visit the Temple of Matchmaker and pray for love, marriage, babies — the whole damn thing. Single girls pray to meet men (think Bridget Jones). Like our V-Day is largely a holiday for us gals to receive presents and affection from the men in our lives, Chinese Valentine’s Day is all about the girls. In fact, it’s actually known as the Daughter’s Festival. Take that, boys!
- DENMARK: Forget red roses, the Danish say it with white! Sending white ‘snowdrop’ flowers to your respective other is the sign of serious affection on Valentine’s Day in Denmark. Another custom: sending love poems, otherwise known as Gaekkebrev. Think of this as an anonymous love letter (although it can be sent by the guy you’re dating). Instead of writing his name, your dude ends the message with dots – and it’s up to you to guess his identity. If you guess correctly, you get…an Easter Egg. Letdown central, I know.
- ENGLAND: Blame Shakespeare for this British tradition. ‘Penning of the verses’ hasn’t entirely died out in the U.K. — which is when magazines publish sonnets and poems leading up to the day of lurv.
- FRANCE: This tradition doesn’t exist in many French towns today, but once upon a time there was a custom called ‘drawing for’, where singles of all ages would go into facing houses and call out to the person they wanted to date. But here’s the rub that sucks: if your guy decided midway through the night that he didn’t actually like you, or you bored him, he could ditch you! If you were one of these women (and apparently there were a lot), you and the other bitter Betties would build a bonfire and burn images of the guy who callously left you on the most romantic night of the year. Unsurprisingly, French officials banned this custom because of its sheer nastiness — but I see the sense in it! How many times have you wanted to burn the boy who burnt you?
- ISRAEL: Yeah, Israelis celebrate V-Day like we do, but they have a second day to redeem themselves (if failing to provide a perfect present or romantic date night) called Tu B’Av in late August. Or they could just get it right the first time around, that’s a thought.
- ITALY: Single girls of olden days in Italy weren’t getting their required 8 hours of beauty sleep. Back in the day, it was the belief that the first man — or a guy who looked exactly like him — a gal would see would become hers within a year. So ladies would wake up at the ass crack of dawn and lean out their window all Juliet-style to try to spot their future husband.
- JAPAN: How’s this for role reversal? On Feb. 14, it’s the women of Japan who gift the men! Japanese men return the favor a month later on White Day, March 14. So what do you buy your guy if you’re a Japanese lady? It isn’t just Americans who adore chocolate. Buy what is known as giri-choco (‘giri’ means obligation, meaning, do it or you’re toast!) for friends, business associates and your best boy buds. For your man, you’d buy or make special hon-mei choccies. Many Japanese women don’t consider their romance to be true love unless they prepare the sweets by hand. Beats our cupcake-making skills by more than a mile, huh?
- MEXICO: Thank God I don’t live in Mexico. The men show their affection by showing up at their girlfriend’s home with a mariachi band with a few romantic songs while standing underneath their window. I’m totally down with John Cusack holding a boombox under my window (hopefully you’ve all seen Say Anything) and playing ‘In Your Eyes’, but I can happily live without the mariachi music. An A+ for effort to the Mexican males, though.
- SCOTLAND: Just like the old Italian customs of yore, the Scottish select the first unattached person they see on the street as their Valentine’s date. I suggest avoid making eye contact unless you’re sure he’s hot…
- SPAIN: Spaniards don’t technically celebrate Valentine’s Day (they’re so amorous on a daily basis that it must be like any other day), but they’ve started to up their games come Feb. 14 by giving their dates cooking lessons. This is one tradition I’m on board with — totally hot unless they’re cooking something like paella and NOT cochinillo asado (suckling pig).
- TAIWAN: Like the Israelis, the Taiwanese get two chances to celebrate V-Day — Feb. 14 and July 7 — and both dates are of equal importance. Men are required (non-negotiable, me likey) to buy their ladies big, expensive bouquets of roses. The amount and color of said roses DO matter: one flower means ‘an only love’, eleven means ‘a favorite’, 99 means ‘forever’ and 108 means ‘marry me.’ Like I said, if he screws up by offering you one when you really were hoping for 108, he still has five months to redeem himself!
- WALES: Maybe America isn’t sounding so bad: instead of getting diamonds from your man, you’re getting a spoon — a Welsh Love spoon, to be exact. Back in the day, men showed their affection by carving these intricate wooden utensils, and the tradition still exists today. Sexy.