Originating in the west as a Christian feast day, Valentine’s Day traditions began in the 14th century with lovers expressing their love through exchanges of flowers, confectionery and greeting cards. Skip to the 1700s and Valentine’s Day becomes an even bigger event, triggering the date’s commercialization and growth into an internationally recognized celebration.
With three saints named Valentine, its origins remain murky. However, a popular and fitting story involves that of one priest in the Roman Empire who was sentenced to death after continuing to perform marriages after they were outlawed. If this fails to set the romantic ambience, check out these other cultural celebrations of love around the world:
Romania – Dragobete, February 24th
Closely following the tails of Valentine’s Day itself, here’s another excuse (or opportunity) to passionately express your love. Observed as the first date of spring in Romania, this also marks the start of mating and nest building season for birds. Reflecting the ways of natural life, boys and girls pick snowdrops for the person they like, making Dragobete the perfect day for lovers in Romania.
Japan – White Day, March 14th
Traditionally in Japan, women take the lead in Valentine’s Day gifts and it’s not until a month later where roles are reversed and men are expected to return the romantic gesture. It takes just one company, Ishimuramanseido, to capitalize on the celebration and in marketing marshmallows to men, sparked a trend within the confectionery industry. White chocolate became the gift of choice, thus securing White Day its slot in cultural history.
China, Qixi, August
Celebrated since the days of the Han Dynasty, Qixi falls on the 7th day of the 7th month, according to the Chinese calendar. In a classic tale of forbidden love, Zhinu and Niulang were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River, eventually only permitted to meet once a year. This 2600+ year old myth remains hugely celebrated in China and Taiwan via offerings of fruit and lighting of sky lanterns.
Israel – Tu B’Av, August
Following the Jewish calendar and celebrated across the 14th-15th of the Hebrew month (August), Tu B’Av roots date back to biblical times. The dates link to the night of a full moon and is intertwined with superstitions based on love and fertility. Previously serving as matchmaking day for unmarried women, it is now a modern celebration of love, marriage and commitment for couples in Israel.
Finland, Ystävänpäivä, 14th February
If Valentine’s Day is truly a celebration of love, why not celebrate one of the purest forms of love; friendship? In Finland, the focus is exactly that – friendships alongside romantic relationships. On this day, everyone takes part in celebrations and no one is left out – friends, relatives, neighbors and even colleagues all give and receive gifts!