Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love for many cultures. In fact, there are only a few countries that don’t celebrate the holiday. If you need some inspiration on how to impress that special someone in your life this February 14, here are some of the most romantic customs from around the world.
St. Jordi’s Day — Spain
St. Jordi, or Saint George, is the patron saint of Catalonia and is widely revered in Spain. He’s most famous for the story “Saint George and the Dragon,” where he slew a dragon to save a princess in a tower. Sound familiar? St. Jordi is the inspiration for modern tales of heroism, bravery, and chivalry.
On April 23, the people of Spain celebrate their dragon slaying hero by presenting gifts to those they love, specifically books. On St. Jordi’s day, booksellers put out sidewalk stands and offer sales so people can get books for their loved ones. It’s also customary for men to give a single red rose to the important women in their lives such as wives, mothers, daughters and sisters.
Love Spoons – Wales
On January 25, the people of Wales celebrate St. Dwynwen, the patron saint of lovers. This day of love is celebrated by gift giving, but instead of exchanging stereotypical presents of love like chocolates or cards, they give each other spoons.
The tradition of love spoons dates back to the 17th century. When a man was interested in a woman, he would carve an elaborate wooden spoon and present it to her. If she accepted it, it meant that the couple was engaged.
Although it doesn’t necessarily mean engagement anymore, the tradition of love spoons continues today in many Welsh communities.
Hearts on Their Sleeves — South Africa
South Africans celebrate Valentine’s Day with the standard cards, candy, and romantic dates, but they have one romantic tradition that sets them apart. On Valentine’s Day, young girls write the name of their lovers, or hopeful lovers, on heart-shaped notes and pin them to their sleeves. For many boys, this is how they learn of secret admirers.
Loterie d’amour — France
Loterie d’amour is an old, and now banned, French Valentine’s Day tradition that translates to “lottery of love,” and that’s exactly what it is. Single people used to sit in two houses that faced each other. They would take turns yelling the names of someone in the opposite house that they are interested in. The two would then pair off and enjoy the day.
The most fun aspect of the day came for women who didn’t get paired, either by not getting called or by having their partner leave them after the lottery. All the remaining single women would start a massive bonfire and burn the images of men who had left them. It was also common for the women to curse the men as they burned their pictures. While it was probably therapeutic, events often got out of hand. Because of that, the French government has since banned the loterie d’amour.
White Day — South Korea
Contrary to most Valentine’s Day celebrations from around the world, Valentine’s Day in South Korea is all about the men. Women flock to the stores to buy chocolates to give to all the important men in their lives.
One month later, on White Day, March 14, it’s the men’s job to return the favor. White Day is the day that the men are supposed to gift chocolates to all the women who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day.
Gaekkebrev — Denmark
Gaekkebrev translates to “joke letters,” and it’s one of the ways that the people of Denmark celebrate Valentine’s Day. The letters themselves aren’t the joke, just the signature. Men write original poems for the lady they’re interested in and decorate the paper by cutting it into interesting designs, much like you’d make a paper snowflake. They sign the note using only dots, one dot for each letter of their name.
If the recipient can correctly guess who the sender is, the sender has to give that person a decorated egg at Easter. If that person guesses incorrectly, the sender is then owed an Easter egg.