Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine's Day: Around The World

Roses, chocolate, and pigs?  Read on to learn about the many 

Valentine's Day traditions happening around the world!

Japan In this part of the world, it's all about spoiling your man on Valentine's Day. Japanese women are usually said to be reserved and shy when it comes to expressing their affection. However, on this holiday, the women speak up and present their men with gifts of chocolate to express their love. Different types of chocolate signify different types of relationships - a woman may gift 'giri-choko' that translates to 'obligation chocolate' to men they have no romantic interest, or for their boyfriends or husbands give 'honmei-choko' meaning 'favorite' or 'true feeling chocolate.' For somewhere in between, they give 'tomo' meaning 'friend,' which is usually gifted to a woman's female friends.

South Korea Adapted from the Japanese traditions, women spoil their men with chocolate. In return, the women receive gifts from their men on 'White Day.' Going a step further, South Korea celebrates 'Black Day' on April 14th for the single people who didn't receive any chocolate love on Valentine's Day or 'White Day.' Singles meet up at restaurants to eat 'jajangmyeon,' a dish of white Korean noodles with black bean sauce. Some say this tradition of eating black noodles with other single friends is a celebration of the single life (while others see it as more of a depressing dinner that mourns the single life - but I like the first attitude more!)

Taiwan In Taiwan, the Japanese/South Korean tradition of Valentine's Day and 'White Day' is reversed- men gift women chocolates on Valentine's Day and women gift men on 'White Day.'

Denmark & Norway 'Valentinsdag' is celebrated with 'gaekkebrev,' which are funny little poems or rhyming love notes that men send to women anonymously. Clues are given based on the number of letters in the senders name, represented by a dot for each letter. The recipient must guess who sent her the card- if she guesses correctly, she wins an Easter egg on Easter and if she guesses wrong, she owes him an egg instead.

Slovenia February 14th marks the first day of working in the fields. Around this time of year, Slovenians start noticing the revival of plants and flowers. The people of Slovenia acknowledge the mating season for the birds and see this holiday as an agricultural significance. It isn't until March 12, on Saint Gregory's Day, that the majority of people celebrate their annual day of love.

Finland & Estonia Valentine's Day is more a celebration of friendship rather than a romantic love fest. It's called 'Ystavan Paiva" in Finnish and "Sobrapaev" in Estonian, which literally translates to "Friend's Day." Friends exchange cards and gifts that celebrate their friendship.

Wales The Welsh celebrate "St. Dwynwen's Day" on January 25th (their equivalent to Valentine's Day). It is customary to gift love-spoons, a tradition that was started with Welsh men would carve intricately decorated spoons of wood and would present them to a lady that they were interested in marrying. Symbolic icons are carved into the spoon handles, such as a key to signify a man's heart or wheels to signify hard work.

France Being one of the most romantic countries in the world, it comes as no surprise that France goes all out. The most popular tradition (in the past and is banned today) was called 'une loterie d'amour,' which translates to 'drawing for love.' Single men and women of all ages would enter houses facing each other and begin calling out to members of the opposite sex as a courtship ritual. If the man was pleased with his 'caller,' he would pair up with her. In an instance where he wasn't, he would simply not respond and move on to the next house. As you can imagine, many feelings were hurt over the course of this ritual and was eventually banned because of the hostility.

Germany 'Valentinstag' celebrates with cards, flowers, candies, and pigs. Yes, pigs. The pig is a symbol of luck and lust. Pig-adorned ornaments and oversized ginger cookies (often iced with messages of love and pigs) are German specialties.

Mexico Known as 'Dia del amor y la amistad' or 'Day of love and friendship' takes on a broader tone of love celebration in Mexico. An old tradition that still exists today between teenage boys and girls is an exchange of flowers. If a boy likes a girl, he'll hand her a flower. If she is still holding the flower a little while later, it means she likes him back. Cute, huh? Mexicans also enjoy covering each other's cars with Post-It notes expressing their love.

Ireland Valentine's Day is based on none other than St. Valentine, whose remains are rumored to be protected in Dublin, Ireland's Carmelite Church. This "gift" was bestowed to the church in 1835 by Pope Gregory XVI, making the unassuming building an interesting, and somewhat creepy, attraction on Valentine's Day.

United States Last but not least, the US. An entire nation swept up in a love-and-consumerism-induced hysteria. It's estimated that the average American spends over $100 on their loved one. Roses and fancy dinners are the most popular gift for adults, while children are encouraged to gift their friends with cards and candy.



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