Valentine’s Day: a world tour of tradition

February 14th is Valentine’s Day! An occasion for couples to celebrate their love. But did you know that traditions differ from country to country?

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! This tradition, with its Anglo-Saxon origins, has become internationalized, as in France for example. Couples give each other gifts, chocolates and tender thoughts to remind their loved ones just how much they’re loved. It’s also customary to give red roses, a flower associated with passion.

But in some countries, Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently. Others don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at all, the day of love being associated with a different date. That’s what we’d like you to discover today!

They have their own traditions


Les Honmei, chocolats japonais

Photo credit: Flickr – Daisuke Matsumura

In the land of the rising sun, only women give gifts! In fact, on Valentine’s Day, women give chocolates to the men in their lives. But don’t worry, men aren’t exempt! One month later, men must give a white gift to every woman who has given them a present. It’s called White Day.

The same tradition exists in South Korea, with one difference. There’s an extra step, on April 14, when on Black Day singles share a dish of jajangmyeon, noodles served with fermented soy sauce.

South Africa

La tradition sud-africain pour la Saint-Valentin

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Qualivity

In South Africa, Valentine’s Day is not so different from the Western holiday. We dine, we dance, we give each other gifts. All classic celebrations. However, it’s a national tradition for women to wear their loved one’s name on a sleeve with a pin.


Croiser son Valentin ou sa Valentine

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Dmytro Zinkevych

The same goes for Scotland. The country celebrates Valentine’s Day in the same way as the rest of the UK. But there’s a little Scottish tradition to spice things up. It’s said that the first person you meet on Valentine’s Day can be your Valentine! A way of involving single people too.


Femme vêtue d'un voile rouge

Photo credit: Shutterstock / MARIO ANDI SUPRIA

It’s red time! In Iraq, on February 14th, all shopkeepers and residents are required to adorn or decorate their businesses in red. Not an insignificant color, since it’s the color of love.

The Philippines

Deux mariés

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Olga Rusinova

Here’s the most amazing tradition. On Valentine’s Day, we get married…in a group! Yes, a group. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the country. Indeed, many couples can’t afford a traditional ceremony. As a result, the idea of paying as a group was born, so that they could still get married.

February 14 is the day with the most group weddings. The record? 164. And all financed by the government.


Les Baci Perugina, chocolats italiens

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Adriana Iacob

Italy is one of those countries, like France, that has adopted the tradition of Valentine’s Day. Italians exchange gifts and go out to eat. But our transalpine neighbors also have a tradition of their own, namely treating themselves to a Baci Perugina, the typical chocolate of the city of Perugia.


Des muffins à l'effigie de cochons

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Anastasia_Panait

While Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Germany, the commercial side is less important. This doesn’t stop German lovers from giving each other something in the name of love. But on the other side of the Rhine, the star object on February 14th is not chocolates or roses, but…a pig. So don’t be surprised to see gifts bearing the animal’s image, or to see it as a decoration on a cake. What’s more, Schwein and Watz (pig in German and Bavarian respectively) are common nicknames for your better half. Without any negative connotations!


Les fleurs de neige, offertes le 14 février

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jaro Mikus

In Denmark, February 14th is the day to send an unsigned card declaration. A riddle is used to guess the author of the letter. If the recipient unmasks the sender, he or she will receive chocolates at Easter.

What’s more, the men don’t give red roses but snowdrops, pretty white flowers.


Offrande pour la Saint Valentin

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Roman Samborskyi

In Estonia, Valentine’s Day is known as Sobrapaev, which means friendship day. Estonians celebrate their friendships by giving each other cards, chocolates and gifts. Another country where February 14th is no sign of depression for the single woman.


Le Porter de Femmes, sport finaldais

Photo credit: Finland Lakeland

There’s going to be some sport! The Finns are taking advantage of Valentine’s Day to organize a women’s wear championship! How does it work? A race in which the husband has to carry his wife. The winner takes home her weight in beer!

Celebrating love another day

In some countries, Valentine’s Day is not the day used to celebrate love. In fact, another date is set aside for this purpose.


Saint Valentin d'un couple brésilien

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Geoff Goldswain

In Brazil, February 14th goes unnoticed. The reason is simple: the Rio Carnival often falls at this time. So Brazilians make up for it on June 12, St. Anthony’s Day.


Deux amoureux lors de Qixi

Photo credit: Shutterstock / leungchopan

Although Valentine’s Day is increasingly important in China today, thanks to the country’s openness to the West, there is another day to celebrate love. It’s called Qixi. The name comes from a legend about a cowherd named Niulang who lived with his brother and sister-in-law. The problem was that his sister-in-law didn’t like his brother-in-law and began to mistreat him. This forced Niulang to leave, with a cow to keep him company.

Unfortunately, this tradition is being lost. New generations increasingly prefer to celebrate their love on February 14th.


Couple colombien

Photo credit: Flickr – Carlos Bustamante Restrepo

Valentine’s Day is not associated with sentimental celebrations in Colombia either. The holiday for lovers is called El Día de Amor y Amistad. It celebrates both love and friendship, and always takes place on the third Saturday in September.


Amoureux Saint Valentin

Photo credit: Shutterstock / JJ-stockstudio

The Motherland didn’t celebrate love on February 14 either. Today, Russian couples treat each other on Valentine’s Day, but there’s traditionally another day set aside for the occasion. So, on July 8, lovers get together to give each other flowers or gifts, just as they would on Valentine’s Day.

What about you? What do you have planned for Valentine’s Day?