Valentine’s Day: How The Holiday Of Love Is Celebrated Around The World

Have you ever wondered how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the rest of the world? From wooden spoons to love buses, we’ve got you covered on how the rest of the world celebrates everyone’s favorite love holiday.

By now, you’re likely used to buying — or receiving — red roses, chocolate hearts, and cutesy teddy bears, but what would you do if your significant other handed you a wooden spoon for Valentine’s Day?

In Wales, they celebrate a version of Valentine’s Day — called St. Dwynwen’s Day, who is the Welsh patron saint of lovers — on January 25. Instead of giving their beloved candy or flowers, Welsh men give their loves hand carved wooden spoons. According to Refinery29, this tradition is believed to have began when Welsh sailors would carve intricate designs into wooden spoons while they were away at sea, and they would give them to their wives upon their return.

In some countries, Valentine’s Day is typically celebrated for men, like in South Korea and Japan, where it’s the women who shower those most important to them with special chocolates. Home-made “honmei-choko,” which translates to “favorite or true meaning chocolate,” are reserved for husbands, boyfriends, and lovers. Store bought “giri-choko,” meaning “obligatory chocolates,” are bought for men in the woman’s life to whom she is not romantically linked, like a father or boss. And at the far end of the spectrum, there’s “Cho-giri choko,” which loosely translates to “ultra-obligatory chocolate,” and is typically a cheap variety of store-bought chocolate given to those a woman may not even particularly like but feels an obligation to gift them something, so that they are not left out — an annoying co-worker, for example.


The Valentine’s Day tables are turned for South Korean and Japanese men on March 14, known as “White Day,” where the men have the opportunity to buy or make sweets and presents for their beloveds if they so choose. South Korea takes the tradition one step further, when on April 14 — also called “Black Day” — single friends get together to drown their sorrows in a special noodle dish made of white noodles in black bean sauce.

“Friend’s Day” is the Valentine’s Day equivalent in Estonia, where, on February 14, single friends get together and ride the Love Bus — that’s actually what it’s called — in the hopes of meeting other singles and potentially hitting it off. Finland also celebrates Friend’s Day, rather than Valentine’s Day, but instead of hopping on the Love Bus, people exchange gifts and cards with their whole group of friends.

According to the Huffington Post, in South Africa, in addition to the typical Valentine’s Day festivals and gifts given to those and from those in love, single women take to pinning the name of their love interest on their sleeves in the hopes that the man they want will learn of their interest, and a love match will be made.

How would you feel about sharing your wedding day with hundreds of other couples? In the Philippines, it’s tradition for couples to get married in a mass wedding on Valentine’s Day. On Valentine’s Day in 2013 alone, 200 couples were married in a mass wedding ceremony in Quezon City, and a grand total of 4000 couples married across the country.

Valentine's Day: How The Holiday Of Love Is Celebrated Around The World
A mass wedding ceremony is performed on Valentine's Day in the Philippines [AP Photo/Bullit Marquez]

In Norfolk, England, their Valentine’s Day tradition includes a Santa Claus-type character who goes by the name of Jack Valentine, or Old Father Valentine. The belief goes that Old Father Valentine will knock on the doors of children on the eve of Valentine’s Day and leave them sweet treats and small presents on their porch.

More fun mystery awaits those who live in Denmark on Valentine’s Day, where it’s tradition for single men to leave the object of their desire an anonymous note that consists of a funny poem or joke, and they sign the letter with only dots — one dot for each letter of their name. The women who receive these letters have to try to deduce who sent them. If they get it right, they win an Easter egg that they can collect on Easter. If they get it wrong, they have to give an Easter egg to the sender.

A version of Valentine’s Day, called Dia dos Namorados, meaning “Lovers Day,” is celebrated on June 12 in Brazil. The typical exchange of chocolates, flowers, and cards are done, but they are not limited to significant others, gifts are bought, and dinners are shared with friends and relatives as well. The following day in Brazil is Saint Anthony’s Day, which celebrates the patron saint of marriage. On this day, single women perform rituals in the hopes that St. Anthony will bring them a husband.

Sadly, not every country embraces Valentine’s Day. Places like Saudi Arabia, for instance, outright ban the celebration of the holiday. In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, it is illegal to sell roses or any Valentine’s Day-themed objects due to the belief that the holiday of love promotes the usage of alcohol and premarital sex. The country also employs a task force, called Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, who patrol the streets on the days before Valentine’s Day looking for public displays of affection — which is punishable by law, according to the International Business Times — or any form of Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. Indonesia, Iran, and Malaysia have similar bans on Valentine’s Day.

Now that you know how the rest of the world observes Valentine’s Day, how do you plan to celebrate the love holiday? Sound off below.

[Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Dunkin’ Donuts]