With Valentine’s Day around the corner, there is a kind of festive spirit in the air. All couples, young or old, will be planning to shower gifts on their beloved ones and etch their mutual affection on each other’s hearts. Let me try to take the readers, around the world, to find out how the people of different countries acknowledge and rejoice this day.
Let us first start with Japan, ‘the land of the rising sun’. The tradition adopted by this country in celebrating Valentine’s Day truly stands out. It is the women who shower gifts on men, especially chocolates, on this day while the men reciprocate on the 14th of March which is called the White Day. Valentine’s Day is celebrated with great fervor here and the preparations to rejoice with ultimate spirit start as early as the beginning of January, once the Christmas spirit mellows down.
Now let us check into China. Though in the 21st century, the Chinese people have adopted the western style of celebrating this day, for centuries they have been celebrating “Qixi Festival” meaning the “The night of Seven”, something equivalent to Valentine’s Day, which they rejoice on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, which falls in the early August. On this Day gift exchanges, dating, travelling etc., are very common here.
Our next destination is Denmark. Here people celebrate Valentine’s Day in their own Danish spirit. Instead of red roses, which are more common, the couples here exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops. They men also gift their sweethearts with a funny poem or rhyme signed anonymously called “gaekkebrev”. On reception of the letter, if the woman guesses the correct sender, she is a proud owner of the Easter egg later that year. Something unique way of celebration isn’t it?
Now let us land in the most romantic destinations of the world, France! The exchanges of Valentines cards first originated here and let us see how! It is believed that Charles, the Duke of Orleans, who was imprisoned by the British during the war of Agincourt, was the first person to send a valentine card to his wife from his cell. This custom was later adopted by the people of France and then by the whole world on the day of the Valentine. Another tradition which was religiously followed on this day was called ‘drawing for Custom’. Now it is no longer followed as it is banned by the French government. The reason being, it led to a lot of unpleasantness amongst the people.
We have reached England! I bring about the unique tradition followed here, apart from the usual customs, to show affection, like exchange of cards, gifts and roses, going on a date etc. On the eve of the Valentine’s Day, young women, in the hope of finding a husband to their liking, place five bay leaves around their pillow. The common symbols on this day are cupid, red roses and teddy bears with roses or hearts.
Next it is the Philippines! One unique tradition followed here on this day is getting married. A large number of couples in Philippines share the same wedding date i.e. the 14th of February. Mass weddings are common here in public places to celebrate this occasion.
Now it’s Italy! Here the Valentine’s Day, popularly known as, ‘La Festa degli Innamoratai’, is only for lovers. Cards are not exchanged amongst friends or for that matter any other member close to the hearts, as is done in the United States. The couples exchange special chocolates, with a poem for their lovers found inside the wrapper. In the city of Verona, the land of Romeo and Juliet, a four day event takes place called the “Verona in love”. In Piazza dei Signorai a large red heart is painted on the street and the whole city center is decorated with heart shaped lanterns which is a delight to watch.
We’ll round it up with USA, our last destination. Here, not only lovers and sweethearts, but also children, spouses, teachers, friends or any other member whom an individual chooses to like can exchange Valentine’s Day greetings. Here Valentine’s Day is seen as a way of expressing gratitude.
The traditions followed on this day, to celebrate the occasion, may not be similar across the world, but they all convey the same message: the message of love and affection for one another, which is the universal truth since time immemorial.
Happy Valentine’s Day!