Valentine's Day Around the World

By now, I think we all know what American Valentine’s Day consists of. Garish, sparkly, pink and red decor with supermarket aisles full of chocolate — Valentine’s has become a staple of American popular culture (especially if you’re in a couple). But did you know that Valentine’s Day isn’t as in-your-face and couple-centered everywhere in the world? In multiple countries across almost all continents, people celebrate Valentine’s Day as a day of love, gift-giving, and appreciation. If you’re looking to change up your regular traditions, are as annoyed by tacky Valentine’s merchandise in America as I am, or simply just curious, here are some Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world:

  1. 1. South Korea: White Day and Black Day

    While couples in South Korea celebrate traditional Valentine’s Day similarly to us here in America, they extend it way beyond just February 14th. On Valentine’s Day, girls will give chocolates and cards to the guys their long-time crushes or current boyfriends. A month later, on March 14th, guys reciprocate with white chocolate and gifts on what is called “White Day.” And yet another month later, on April 14th, is what South Koreans call "Black Day” — singles eat black bean noodles while wearing black and contemplate their loneliness and lack chocolates that year.

  2. 2. France: “une loterie d’amour”

    France, while housing Paris, the city of love, is also the origin of the Valentine’s tradition of celebrating love. Until recent times, men and women would partake in "une loterie d’amour,” or a lottery of love. Men would pack into a house across the street from all the women, and would take turns calling out to each other until most people were paired up. The guys could choose to leave their female partners if they weren’t happy, leaving many girls bitter and rejected. These remaining girls would then gather at a bonfire later in the night to burn pictures of men and complain about the opposite gender. Unfortunately, the bonfires got so out of hand that French government eventually had to ban the practice. Today, France mostly just hosts festivals and parties about love, but I think the original bonfire gathering sounds a lot more fun.

  3. 3. Estonia: Sobrapaev

    In Estonia, Valentine’s Day isn’t just for the couples! On February 14th, everyone in Estonia can celebrate Sobrapaev, a festival of love and friendship between anybody. Kids make cards for people they care for, like their friends or parents, and adults can gift each other something too. Overall, this day is a celebration of caring and love of all kinds, romantic, familial, or friendship. 

  4. 4. Ghana: National Chocolate Day

    As one of the world’s biggest producers of cocoa, it’s no surprise that the country of Ghana has a National Chocolate Day that falls on February 14th. Chocolate Day was established by the nation’s tourism industry to be on Valentine’s Day, and serves as a reminder to give the sweet and simple gift of chocolate to your loved ones, while also encouraging cocoa production.

And those are some of the interesting Valentine’s traditions from around the world! Hopefully, you feel a little more knowledgable, and a little more appreciative of the vast cultures and holidays that exist in our world. So, if you’re in a happy relationship, a “complicated” one, or are a single Pringle this year, you can use this list to find something fun to do this February 14th. Happy Valentine’s Day!