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Valentine’s Day traditions around the world

By Holly Buskirk

Valentine’s Day roots back to varying folklore that resulted in this beloved holiday, but out of the many stories, the one about the Roman priest is the most famous. Saint Valentine was a priest during third century Rome. At this time, Emperor Claudius II was recruiting young men to serve as soldiers. At this time, many young men were starting their lives by falling in love, getting married and starting a family, so less men were willing to be soldiers. Emperor Claudius II decided to outlaw young men to get married in light of the situation.

Saint Valentine found this outlaw inhumane and cruel to not allow young couples in love to marry, so he started to hold secret weddings for these lovers. Once Emperor Claudius II found out of Saint Valentine rebelment, he sentenced him to death by beheading. It is said we celebrate Valentine’s Day in honor of this great man who stood for love within the injustices of the law. While February 14 is a day for chocolate, flowers and time with your loved ones, traditions change all around the world.

Asia has many interesting traditions surrounding the holiday of love, but Korea, Japan and the Philippines are most known for their unique ways of celebration. South Korea holds a day of love every month on the 14. Each month is held for every person and couple of any relationship or background. For example, “The Day of Roses” is celebrated every May. This holiday celebrates the beginning of spring with festivals of flowers, themed restaurants and discounted prices for couples.

“The Day of Roses” is meant to be spent with your loved one and a bouquet of flowers. “The Day of Kisses” is celebrated every June 14. This holiday celebrates the love a couple holds for one another through a kiss. This holiday is less celebrated, but is still popular among young lovers.

“The Day of Hugs” falls on Dec. 14 and is also known as sock day. On this day, you are supposed to hug and show affection to your significant other. Another tradition for this holiday is to buy your loved one new socks. Last off, “The Black Day” arrives every April 14. This holiday is held for all of the single adults out in the world who have no one to spend these romantic holidays with. These people are traditionally dressed in all black as they eat their body weight in jjajang myeon, a black bean noodle dish. 

In the Philippines, however, they hold a huge gala for singles and couples. At this event, they eat, drink and get married. Getting married on February 14 is a form of public service by young adults and is funded by the Filipino Government.

Finally, Japan celebrates Valentine’s Day and White Day. On Valentines day, young female lovers are supposed to hand make chocolates, cakes and cards to give to their crush. If they are rejected, they have to face spending White Day alone. Young men are not allowed to give the girls gifts in return until White Day on March 14.

Europe has many unique traditions in France, Wales, Denmark and England. It is believed that a Frenchman exchanged the first Valentine’s Day card. This story dates back to 1415 when Charles, the Duke of Orleans, would send his wife love letters from prison. A French village called “Valentine” celebrates the holiday of romance every 12 and 14 of February. Homes, trees and beautiful yards are decorated in endless love letters and magnificent arrangements of flowers. This is known as one of the most beautiful Valentine traditions around the world.

Wales decided to take a different turn on romance. On January 25 each year,  couples will hand carve spoons for their significant other. This holiday is known as “Day of San Dwynwen.” This tradition has been practiced by many since the 16th century.

While Wales had been celebrating this romantic holiday for centuries, Denmark did not start celebrating until the 1990s. On Valentine’s Day, Denmark is not only limited to giving out flowers and chocolates. Friends or lovers also exchange little handmade notes to each other that are pressed with little white flowers called snowdrops.

Finally, England celebrates Valentine’s day like they celebrate Christmas. In Norfolk, there is a man named Jack Valentine. This man is said to travel around England and deliver chocolate to children. Another English tradition consists of pillows and bay leaves. Women place bay leaves on their pillows in hopes of dreaming of their new man.

In the end, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to consist of only chocolates and flowers. Many different countries and continents express their ways of love in unique and interesting ways: from dedicating a day to roses or placing bay leaves on their pillows. Love comes in many forms, so why not express it in different ways?     

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