The holiday of love, Valentine’s Day, is celebrated with enthusiasm throughout the world. Most commonly observed Valentine’s tradition is expressing one’s love with an exchange of romantic gifts , flowers and cards. However in some countries the holiday has its own unique customs. With this said let’s get familiar with the most unusual Valentine’s Day traditions around the world.
Japanese Valentine’s Day is all about spoiling men and not the other way around like in most Western cultures. In Japan, women are expected to give romantic Valentine’s gifts, mostly chocolates to the important men in their lives. This tradition was started as a marketing campaign by Japanese chocolate companies in 1950s and quickly gained a big popularity. To this day gifting different types of Valentine’s chocolates helps express the nature of one’s relationship without the need for words. For example, there are four main types of chocolate gifts each carrying its own message. ‘Obligation chocolate’ meant for men without any romantic interest like bosses, colleagues, male relatives and friends. ‘Ultra-obligatory chocolate’ which are given out of courtesy to distant acquaintances. ‘True feeling chocolate’ given to boyfriends, lovers or husbands. And lastly ‘Friend chocolate’ presented to female friends.
One month later on White Day (March 14), men are expected to return gifts to women who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Traditionally such gifts are supposed to be at least two or three times more valuable than received ones. Not returning the gift is perceived as the man placing himself in a position of superiority. And returning a present of equal value is considered as a way to say that you are ending the relationship. Originally only chocolates were given to women on White Day, but now it’s accompanied by jewelry, flowers, plush toys, lingerie, clothing, etc.
Just like in Japan women in South Korea spoil their men with chocolates on Valentine’s Day. In return, they receive gifts on ‘White Day’ from men. However, the custom doesn’t end there. Koreans have taken Valentine’s traditions a step further and introduced a “Black Day” observed on April 14.
On this day those who did not receive any lovin’ (chocolates or gifts) on Valentine’s Day and White Day accordingly, go to a restaurant with other single friends and eat a dish of so called black noodles. Some refer to this custom as a celebration of the single life, while for others it is more a consolation dinner or mourning of being single.
Valentine’s Day in Taiwan: Going in Reverse
In Taiwan, the Japanese and South Korean tradition of Valentine’s and White Day is reversed. Meaning that men give romantic gifts on Valentine’s Day whereas women return the favor by gifting men chocolates on White Day.
The tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day didn’t become popular in Scandinavian countries until more recently. However, the locals introduced their own quirky custom of celebrating the holiday their own way. “Gaekkebrev” are funny little poems or rhyming love notes that men send to women anonymously on Valentine’s Day. Using a given clue like the number of letters in the senders name, represented by a dot for each letter, a woman must guess who her secret admirer is. If she guesses correctly she receives an Easter Egg on Easter later that year but if she makes a mistake it’s her who has to give the sender an egg on Easter.
Valentine’s Day in Finland & Estonia: Viva La Friendship
Valentine’s Day in Finland and Estonia is more a celebration of friendship rather than a romantic occasion. Even the name of the holiday literally translates as a “Friend’s Day”. On this day people exchange cards & gifts with the greeting of “Happy Friends Day”.
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