1. Japan: A Chocolate Affair
In Japan, Valentine’s Day is all about women expressing their feelings through chocolates. Brought into popularity by Morozoff Ltd. in 1936, the tradition has different types of chocolates representing various relationships. From ‘giri-choko’ given out of obligation to ‘honmei-choko’ that symbolizes deep affection, this Japanese custom reveals much about the giver’s intentions. And don’t forget ‘White Day’, introduced in the 1980s, where men reciprocate the gestures with even grander gifts on March 14th.
2. South Korea: Celebrating Love and Singleton Days
Apart from Valentine’s and White Day, South Korea has introduced the ‘Black Day’. This day sees singles who didn’t receive any Valentine’s presents indulging in ‘jajangmyeon’, black noodles, symbolizing the solitude and the dark side of love. But love is celebrated throughout the year with a special day every 14th of the month, from Candle Day in January to Hug Day in December.
3. Taiwan: Mirror Traditions
Following the Japanese and South Korean styles, in Taiwan, men shower women with chocolates and presents on Valentine’s Day, and women reciprocate on White Day.
4. Denmark & Norway: Love Notes and Easter Eggs
‘Gaekkebrev’, funny little love poems, have become quite the rage in these countries. These anonymous notes hint at the sender’s identity, and if the woman guesses correctly, she gets an Easter Egg.
5. Slovenia: Nature’s Love Fest
Slovenians believe February 14th is when nature springs to romantic life. With folklore suggesting birds proposing to each other, it’s considered lucky to witness this barefooted. While Valentine’s Day marks the beginning of fieldwork, love in Slovenia also finds expression on Saint Gregory’s, Saint Vincent’s, and Saint Anthony’s Days.
6. Finland & Estonia: Celebrating Friendship
Friendship rather than romance takes center stage on Valentine’s Day in these nations. Marked as “Ystävän Päivä” in Finnish and “Sõbrapäev” in Estonian, the day is a favorite for weddings and engagements.
7. Wales: Wooden Spoons and a Love Saint
The Welsh commemorate love on January 25, dedicating it to St. Dwynwen, their patron saint of lovers. Legend has it that Dwynwen had a tragic love story, leading her to become a nun. The unique tradition here is for men to gift intricately carved wooden spoons to their beloveds, a token of their affection.
8. England: Dreaming of Future Husbands
In a bygone era, English women used bay leaves in the hope of dreaming about their future husbands. Even if now considered quaint, it’s a heartwarming look into the romantic aspirations of the past.
9. Norfolk, England: The Valentine’s Santa
A heartwarming and playful tradition, Jack Valentine or the Valentine Santa, leaves treats for children on Valentine’s Eve, continuing a legacy passed down through generations.
10. France: The Lover’s Lottery
Love was quite a gamble in France with “une loterie d’amour”, where men and women paired off in a match-making game. Those left unmatched would vent their frustrations in a fiery gathering. Such was the passion of this ritual that it was eventually banned.
The History Of These Traditions
The tradition of women giving chocolates in Japan was popularized in the 1950s by marketing campaigns. Kobe-based confectioner ‘Morozoff Ltd.’ took the first step in 1936, targeting foreigners. The different chocolates, ranging from ‘giri-choko’ to ‘honmei-choko’, signify varying degrees of affection or social obligation.
South Korea’s Days of Love and Loneliness
While Valentine’s and White Day mirror Japan’s traditions, South Korea’s unique “Black Day” for singles stems from a contemporary informal tradition. This day signifies both the grief and camaraderie of those without romantic ties during the love-filled months.
Taiwan’s Role Reversal
While similar to Japan and South Korea, Taiwan has its spin on who gifts whom. However, the history of this role reversal is less documented compared to its neighbors.
Denmark & Norway’s Poetic Love Notes
“Gaekkebrev”, or funny little poems, are a modern twist on traditional courting letters. This charming game of guesswork introduces playfulness into the lovers’ festivities.
Slovenia’s Connection to Nature
February 14 marks the start of fieldwork in Slovenia. Historically, it’s believed that birds propose to their partners on this day. The day is a harmonious blend of agricultural significance and nature’s romance.
Finland & Estonia’s Celebration of Friendship
In these Baltic nations, Valentine’s Day, known as “Ystävän Päivä” and Sõbrapäev, historically focuses more on platonic love than romantic love, emphasizing the deep bonds of friendship.
Wales’ Legend of St. Dwynwen
The story of Dwynwen from the 5th century is a tale of love, heartbreak, and wishes. The tradition of men gifting intricately carved wooden spoons to women dates back centuries and symbolizes various romantic intentions.
England’s Dreams of Love
The old English custom of pinning bay leaves to pillows, hoping to dream of future partners, is a nostalgic throwback to simpler times. It showcases the age-old human desire to know the unknown.
Norfolk’s Valentine Santa
This lesser-known tradition is reminiscent of the spirit of giving during Christmas but with a romantic twist. The mysterious Jack Valentine character emphasizes surprise and joy.
France’s Rowdy Lover’s Lottery
The “une loterie d’amour” is a vibrant reflection of old French traditions where love and passion run high. This boisterous gathering, though now obsolete, showcased both the ecstasy of newfound love and the agony of rejection.
Our Top Tips For Using These Ideas For A Special Valentine
Infuse Japanese Sentiments into Your Gift
When gifting chocolates to your partner, consider adding a personal touch like the Japanese do. Depending on your relationship, label it as ‘giri-choko’ for a fun, light-hearted gift or ‘home-choko’ for something more serious. You and your partner can have a little chuckle or an intimate moment, depending on the choice.
Celebrate Singleton Days, the Korean Way
If you find yourself single this Valentine’s, gather your fellow single friends and indulge in ‘jajangmyeon’ or any comfort food of your choice. Celebrating ‘Black Day’ can be a fun way to bond with friends, and appreciate the love you share.
Exchange Roles with Your Partner, Inspired by Taiwan
Just for a change, switch roles. If you’re a man, take inspiration from Taiwan and pamper your woman with chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Women, return the gesture on another day, surprising your partner.
Pen Down a Love Note, Denmark-Style
Instead of the usual Valentine’s card, try writing a poetic or rhyming love note. Make it mysterious by adding hints about your identity and have your partner guess. It’s a fun and interactive way to share your feelings.
Connect with Nature Like the Slovenians
Plan a nature date. It could be a simple walk in a park, or if you’re more adventurous, hike to a spot where birds are abundant. Slovenians believe in connecting with nature on this day, and you might find it refreshingly romantic too.
Celebrate Friendship with Finnish Flair
Remember, Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples. Send a thoughtful gift or note to your close friends. Celebrate the day as “Ystävän Päivä” and cherish the bond you share.
Craft a Welsh-inspired Token
Try your hand at a DIY project. Inspired by the Welsh tradition, carve or paint a small wooden token. It doesn’t have to be a spoon; any wooden item will do. Personalize it with symbols or words that mean something special to you and your partner.
Dream a Little, the English Way
For a bit of nostalgic romance, you and your partner can write down your dreams or aspirations on bay leaves and place them under your pillows. Share them the next morning over breakfast.
Incorporate the Valentine Santa in Your Celebration
This one’s especially fun if you have kids. Play the role of Jack Valentine by leaving little treats and notes around the house for your family members to find. It’s a wholesome way to make the day special for everyone.
Organize a Fun “Lover’s Lottery” Inspired by the French
Host a game night for your couple of friends with a twist. Have a “Lover’s Lottery” where partners can draw challenges or dare the other half to perform. It’s a playful way to bring laughter and bonding to your Valentine’s celebration.