It’s fascinating how our calendar year seems to revolve around one holiday after the other. Just as soon as we take down our Christmas and New Year cards and decorations, we are bombarded with Valentine’s Day television adverts, store windows and gift ideas. This day is one that we either completely embrace or can’t wait to see the end of! It seems that us women in particular have a love-hate relationship with it. For those in relationships, it’s a day to get spoilt rotten and be publicly adored and well for those who aren’t, it feels like a broadcasted announcement that you are neither being spoilt rotten nor publicly adored… And then, let’s not forget the rest of us who couldn’t really care less because in reality it is just another normal day.
(Galesnjak, and island off the Croatian coast known as Lovers’ Island)
Not many people could tell you why we celebrate Valentine’s Day or how it all began; nowadays it has just become another example of capitalism taking over, forcing us to buy presents and do something “extra special” for a loved one. Well, the origins of the day do surprisingly relate to the expression of love. It all started out with a Roman saint, Saint Valentine, who would secretly perform weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. He was imprisoned for his actions and executed but right before his death he wrote a note to his lover and signed it “Your Valentine” which is where the tradition of picking a “valentine” comes from.
Now for the majority of countries, a traditional Valentine’s Day falls on February 14th every year and is celebrated by the exchange of cards, flowers and confectionary between loved ones, mainly those in relationships. This is the way we do it here in England as well as how they do things in America, however, there are some countries that like to celebrate this day in weird and wonderful ways…
For those singletons out there, whether Valentine’s Day is a chance for you to rejoice in your freedom or mourn the absence of a partner, you can do so in whatever way you want, possibly digging into a nice big tub of Ben & Jerry’s or going out and partying the night away. Sadly, if you were in South Korea this would not be the case. They do celebrate on 14th February but tradition calls for the women to give gifts to the men. However, it doesn’t end there. Exactly one month later they celebrate ‘White Day’ where those that were given gifts on Valentine’s Day then reciprocate the gesture by spoiling the women with gifts on this day. And yet it still doesn’t end there, exactly another month later they celebrate ‘Black Day’ on 14th April where single people who didn’t receive anything on either day come together to eat a Korean dish known as ‘black noodles’ (white noodles in a black bean sauce) to either celebrate their single life or console themselves over their singledom. This is not to say that Koreans are not romantic though, they mark the 14th of every month as some kind of love-related day!
Moving to the other side of the world in Brazil, they celebrate “Dia dos enamorados” translated as “Lover’s Day” on 12th June, as Valentine’s Day coincides with their festival season. The main celebrations occur on the eve of this day as the following day is marked as the Day of Saint Anthony, also known as the marriage saint. It is popular tradition for single ladies to perform rituals on this night in hopes of finding a husband or boyfriend. They write the names of several crushes, or potential boyfriends, on pieces of paper and place them under their pillows. In the morning, the first name that they pick will be the one that they choose to pursue (talk about leaving things up to fate!) Other South American countries celebrate “Love and Friendship Day” on the same day as Valentine’s Day and perform secret acts of love for friends and family in a similar way to Secret Santa.
Returning a little closer to home; in Wales ‘Saint Dwynwens Day’ is celebrated on 25th January and is the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day. On this day it is customary to gift your loved one with a traditional ‘love-spoon.’ It all started when sailors would carve intricately designed spoons from wood to present to their love-interest with specific designs having certain meanings. For example, a carved key would signify the man’s heart, wheels his hard work etc. Sadly though, today Welsh men don’t really carve their own spoons but similar gifts are still presented.
For a less serious Valentine’s Day tradition, men in Denmark traditionally write ‘joking poems’ to those they love, known as “Gaekkebrev.” These love notes typically rhyme and are signed at the bottom by dots to represent the letters of the poet’s name. If the woman who receives one manages to correctly guess who wrote her the poem then she will get an Easter egg later that year, if she guesses wrong then it is her that owes the man an Easter egg. Another little Danish tradition is to send pressed snowdrops to friends instead of the traditional red roses.
Whether you hate it or love it there is no way of escaping this day, as all over the world people put in the effort to do something different to express their love to partners, friends and family. At the end of the day, we all love being spoilt so why not spoil someone you love this Valentine’s Day?