By Randy Mancilla
Regardless of its origins, many nations around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day or at least a day of love. However, though it is a day to celebrate love, not every nation celebrates the same way.
We are all familiar with Valentine’s Day celebrations in the United States, which typically involve purchasing gifts and chocolate, as well as going on romantic dates. However, worldwide celebrations are often very different.
In Wales, they celebrate the Day of San Dwynwen rather than Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated in honor of the Welsh patron saint of lovers Saint Dwynwen. The Day of San Dwynwen takes place on the 25 of January, with very similar customs as those we hold to in America for Valentine’s Day. Starting in the 1600s, a tradition emerged where men in relationships would give their significant others hand-carved spoons as a symbol of their love.
In Ghana, Valentine’s Day is referred to as National Chocolate Day. In Ghana, this day was created to promote tourism in the country, as Ghana is the second-largest producer of chocolate, according to the country’s website.
In South Africa, a custom during Valentine’s Day is for people to wear the name of their lover on their sleeve, a tradition believed to have originated from the Roman Empire. Women wear the name of their lovers on their sleeve meant for all to see. In the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, festivals are held to announce the approaching holiday of love.
In Southern China, the Miao people celebrate Valentine’s Day on the fifteenth day of the third month of the Lunar New Year, known as the Sisters’ Meal Festival. It’s a three day celebration filled with events such as horse racing, bullfighting, Lusheng music and traditional Miao dances, with young ladies wearing silver jewelry like crowns, necklaces and bracelets.
The festival also includes an antiphonal singing competition where men and women ask questions to one another and whoever can’t answer the other’s question lyrically then they must give the victor a gift. Antiphonal singing is in a sense two people or two groups conversing with one another through song. The main event is on the final day, where women give men dyed steamed rice in a handkerchief as gifts. This year’s Sisters’ Meal Festival should take place on May 4-7.
In Romania, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14, similar to other countries, but they also have another day of love called Dragobete on February 24. It’s a traditional custom that has been in practice for centuries and symbolizes love and the coming of Spring. Dragobete is the Romanian god of love and birds. Instead of focusing on gifts, the day emphasizes spending time with loved ones and finding spring flowers. Finding strawberry flowers is said to bring luck in love.
South Korea has year long Valentine’s Day celebrations on the 14th of each month. Some of the celebrations each month include giving specific gifts such as diaries or silver. But there are simpler days as well, just for kissing and spending time in nature together.
This Valentine’s Day, consider seeking out another country’s traditions to add to your own. This will make Valentine’s Day feel new and special.