This month, February 14th marks the day of celebration of St. Valentine, both across the United States and around the world. While the legend of St. Valentine remains a mystery, it is told that he sent the first Valentine’s Day greeting. The legend says that Valentine fell in love while being imprisoned, perhaps with the jail keeper’s daughter who visited him. Before his death, he is said to have written her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
Regardless of its origins, however, Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world. While February 14th marks a day of candy, flowers, greeting cards and romantic dinners around the United States, other parts of the world have their own unique way to celebrate St. Valentine.
The Valentine’s Day celebration is alive and well in the United Kingdom. Following a tradition that dates back to the Victorian era, anonymous valentines are sent to romantic interests. Victorians believed that signing their name on the card was considered bad luck. The United Kingdom also started the tradition of giving roses on Valentine’s Day. The flower is traditionally seen as the favorite of Venus, Roman goddess of love.
In Japan, women make the first move on Valentine’s Day. They give men gifts instead of the other way around. One of the most popular gift choices is honmei-choco, a homemade chocolate. Men return the gesture on March 14th, known as White Day. On that day men give women white chocolate and other white gifts as a sign of their affection.
As in Japan, women in South Korea give gifts to men on Valentine’s Day while men celebrate White Day. However, South Korea has a third holiday known as Black Day, which is celebrated on April 14th. On this day, single friends gather together to eat noodles and celebrate being single. This day gained its name for the popular noodle dish, with includes noodles in a black sauce.
February 14th in Slovenia is considered a prime day for working in the fields, as St. Valentine is one of the patron saints of spring. Slovenians typically celebrate romance one month later on St. Gregory’s Day, which falls on March 12th.
Rather than celebrate their love on February 14th, residents on Wales celebrate St. Dwynwen’s Day on January 25th. Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lover and on this day men traditionally gift women with hand-carved wooden spoons. This tradition is based on the notion that Welsh sailors carved designs into wooden spoons while at sea to bring to their lovers back at home.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, take some time to think about who that special someone is that you are thankful for this year and maybe start your own tradition with them.