It is said that Valentine’s Day was born out of the Roman prohibition on marriage during the third Century, when Emperor Claudius II banned marriage, believing that single men made better soldiers.
A priest named Valentine, a softie for love, performed marriages despite the edict. He was imprisoned for his disobedience and sentenced to death. During his captivity, he is rumored to have restored the eyesight of his jailer’s daughter. Before his death on 14th February, he wrote her a letter and signed it “Your Valentine”, signifying the world’s first Valentine.
Unbeknownst to Valentine his simple act would plant the seeds for a love-filled holiday that would spring to life around the world. Love, it makes the world go around, but not everyone celebrates it the same way. Here are some different ways that people across the globe celebrate friendship, eternal love, and even one’s single status.
The Japanese celebrate two Valentine’s Days. In the spirit of Sade Hawkins, Japanese ladies kick off the Valentine season by giving chocolate to the men in their lives. The type of chocolate given depends on her relationship with the recipient. Platonic relationships such as colleagues and friends receive Giri-choko or ‘obligatory chocolate’. Honmei-choko chocolate, or ‘favorite chocolate’ is reserved for love interests. On 14th March, known as White Day, men reply by giving gifts three times more valuable than the chocolate they received.
2. South Korea
South Korea offers a mixed bag for single souls. Singles distressed about flying solo are well advised to avoid South Korea. On 14th April, Koreans observe ‘Black Day’, a day when those who failed to receive gifts on Valentine’s Day, or White Day, eat black bean noodles called jajanmyeon and mourn being single. Unattached Koreans refuse to feast on jajanmyeon stag, choosing instead to embrace their relationship status with similarly situated friends. Whether Black Day prompts updates to online dating profiles or communion with other singles who are looking to mingle, South Koreans have until June 14 to snag a companion who wishes to pucker up with them for Kiss Day!
Singles may feel more comfortable in Scotland where wearing your heart on your sleeve is expected. Scots look for love at Valentine’s Day parties. Singletons write their names on a piece of paper, which they then place into two bowls depending upon gender. Names are drawn, taking the pressure off singles to find a date. Men present their dates with gifts and women wear the name tag of their Valentine on their sleeves.
4. Verona, Italy
The fair city of Verona celebrates its most famous pair of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet with ‘Verona in Love’, a festival that takes place from 13th to 16th February. Expressions of love explode as red heart-shaped lights illuminate the city’s streets and a Valentine’s Day market sells romantic goodies. Visitors can tour Juliet’s house and participate in a love letter contest to the ill-fated bride.
“Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it” Cole Porter once crooned to the lovestruck. In Slovenia, almost everyone is lovey dove. With Old Man Winter on his way out and Spring peaking around the horizon, Valentine’s Day marks the day when farmers start toiling in their fields. Slovenes believe that St. Valentine, better known by his local alias of Zdravko, the patron saint of beekeepers and pilgrims, brings farmers “the keys to the roots” that will allow them to open their fields for the planting season. Slovenes believe this time of renewal, inspires birds to propose to their mate. It’s a short lived engagement, however, as the newly engaged marry the same day. Those who wish to attend the ceremony must walk barefoot through the fields to watch them exchange their vows.
6. Norfolk, England
In Norfolk, it’s Valentine’s Day meets Christmas with Jack Valentine filling in for Father Christmas. Jack Valentine serves as everyone’s Secret Santa on Valentine’s Day Eve, leaving special gifts on doorsteps after knocking on the door and running away so as not to be seen. Just as St. Nick has a slew of helpers, local residents aid Jack Valentine in delivering gifts anonymously to their friends and family, often returning home to gifts on their doorsteps as well. During the 19th century spending for gifts on Valentine’s Day once outpaced Christmas. Although not as widespread as it once was, this beloved Victorian tradition still continues today.
Anyone can send a dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day. However, in Taiwan, the number of roses given is symbolic. If a woman receives a single red rose, it is a proclamation by the gent that he only has eyes for her as she is his one true love. If she receives ninety-nine roses, he is declaring that his love for her is eternal. If he gives her one hundred roses, he is asking for her hand in marriage! Ninety-nine versus one hundred roses gives a different meaning to ‘he loves me, he loves me not’.
On Valentine’s Day love is all around you. Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, and how you celebrate Valentine’s Day is completely up to you. Happy Valentine’s Day!