Valentine’s Day is, for many people, the most romantic day of the year, a time at which couples all over the world celebrate the wonder of love by collectively spending millions of dollars, euros, pounds and other currencies on Valentine’s gifts. Many countries have their own particular traditions and customs on February 14 and here’s a selection:
Originally, Italians celebrated Valentine’s Day as the Spring Festival. The young and amorous gathered outside in gardens and tree arbors to enjoy poetry readings and music before taking a stroll with their beloved.
Today on Valentine’s Day Italians prefer having romantic dinners and exchanging gifts. Also, there is a traditionof giving chocolate to loved ones and Italians believe that in this case, size does matter- the bigger the chocolate, the stronger the love you will have.
The French like to think of themselves as the most romantic people in the world, and it’s often claimed on Gallic shores that the first Valentine’s Day card originated in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his life while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415.
Today card giving is not as popular as it used to be. Instead, the French have taken to their love for their own cuisine; restaurants famously do a roaring trade on February 14, a day also considered the best time for a marriage proposal.
Valentine’s cards are often sent anonymously in the UK, a tradition dating back to Victorian times. So the recipients find out they have secret admirers while the senders satisfy themselves with the knowledge that the ones they admire know they’re admired. Various parts of the country have their own ways of celebrating: in Norfolk in the west, a mysterious Jack Valentine knocks on people’s doors and vanishes, leaving sweets for children. In Wales in the east, Valentine’s Day comes just a few weeks after St Dwynwen’s (January 25) after the Welsh patron saint of lovers.
Perhaps the the only country in the world where Valentine’s day is banned. In 2008 Saudi officials told florists and gift shops to remove all red items until after Valentine’s Day, calling the celebration of such a holiday a sin as it “encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women”.
Valentine’s Day celebrations in Estonia have their own twist: February 14 is called “Friend’s Day”, so single, lovelorn people don’t feel left out. That means everyone’s a winner thanks to nice presents offered between friends and family members.
That doesn’t mean there’s no romance; shops, restaurants and even streets are decorated with hearts and other symbols of love. On this day single people also get the chance to take a ride on a special “love bus” where they can meet others looking for love.
Indians, especially young people celebrate Valentine’s Day like in other countries. People give flowers, sweets, and dine out with someone they love. However, some Hindu organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Sri Ram Sena, and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) are opposed to people celebrating it, arguing that it’s against Indian culture. There was a huge uproar in 2009 after a group of people claiming to be from Sri Ram Sena attacked women in a pub in Mangalore, India. This incident led to Pink Chaddi Campaign or Pink Underwear Campaign, wherein people were asked to protest the stand of the organization by sending pink underwear to its office on Valentine’s Day. The campaign received good response from the people and hundreds of underwear were couriered. The issue was solved after the organization and campaigners found a truce.
Valentine’s Day celebration was initially restricted to adults but the youth and the kids became an integral part of the occasion. Gifts like cards, chocolates etc are exchanged between friends and lovers like in other countries. Interestingly, they have brought pigs into the celebration. For them, pigs represent luck and lust, and so it is given in the form of pictures, statues, sweets etc.
Unlike in most countries, Australians give expensive gifts to their loves ones on Valentine’s Day. The tradition of gifting extravagant items like cards, satin cushion and flowers was started by merchants in the country in the mid-nineteenth century. Gold rush in the Ballarat mines led to people showering their loved ones – lovers, friends, spouse and family members – with expensive gifts.
Being a Muslim society, public display of love and affection is forbidden but the air is slowly changing with youngsters beginning to celebrate the day, mostly in a discreet manner. Despite strict instructions against celebrating Valentine’s Day by religious authorities, red roses, red heart-shaped balloons etc are sold on roadsides and special delicacies are baked for the occasion
Valentine’s Day has more to do with women than men in Japan. It’s an occasion for women to shower their men with gifts, especially boxes of chocolates. Interestingly, they celebrate White Day on 14 March, wherein menfolks give chocolate more expensive than the one they received on Valentine’s Day to women.
For young people in China, Valentine’s Day is an occasion to give flowers, chocolates and other gifts to their lovers or someone they love. Streets are adorned by colorful decorations and gift items for the day. Many hotels set special menu on the occasion for people on date.