St. Valentine’s Day is also commonly known and referred to as Valentine’s day or V-day. Observed and celebrated by several countries around the world, on February 14 , this is traditionally a day where lovers express and reaffirm their love for their sweethearts by giving flowers, sweets, chocolates, and valentines (greeting cards).
However many people also express gratitude and love for teachers, friends, parents, siblings or any other person dear to them.
This day honors the early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, and that association has carried till today. While Valentine’s day is widely celebrated all over the world, its traditions and customs varies from country to country due to social and cultural differences.
North America – Valentine’s Day is an extremely popular festival in north America. Valentine’s day is said to have been imported to North America in the 19th century by British settlers. In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of giving gifts along with cards became popular. Roses and chocolates were the most commonly exchanged Valentine’s Day Gifts and were usually given by the man to the woman. Many couples hold private celebrations in homes or restaurants to mark this day. Valentine’s Day festival has been commercialized to a great extent in North America especially the United States. It is estimated that Valentine’s Day is the major card and gift giving festival in US.
Britain – Valentine’s Day is celebrated with lots of enthusiasm and charm in Britain. Similar to many other countries, the English express love for their beloved by giving them flowers, in particular roses, cards, chocolates and other special gifts.Different regions of the country have their unique celebrations but one custom that is observed by all is the singing of special songs by children. These children are rewarded with gifts of candy, fruit or money. In some regions delectable Valentine buns are baked with caraway seeds, plums or raisins. Penning of verses is another extremely popular tradition of Valentine’s Day. Weeks before the festival, newspapers and magazines publish sonnets and verses to commemorate St Valentine’s Day. The custom follows the footsteps of famous English poets who penned most of the best-loved romantic verses associated with Saint Valentine.
Italy – Valentine’s Day was initially celebrated as a spring festival in Italy and held outdoors. People would gather in tree arbors or ornamental gardens and enjoy listening to music and reading poetry. Later they would stroll off with their Valentine into the gardens. The custom steadily ceased over the course of years and has not been celebrated for centuries. Today Valentine’s day is mainly regarded as a holiday imported from US, similar to Halloween, Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. The day is celebrated mainly by young Italians who take this opportunity to profess love to their sweethearts the American way -with gifts like perfume, chocolates, flowers, cards or jewelry. V-day is exclusively for lovers therefore family members and friends do not exchange gifts. A popular Valentine’s day gift in Italy is Baci Perugina – a small, chocolate-covered hazelnut containing a small slip of paper with a romantic poetic quote in four languages.
Japan – In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 and lasts till March 14, also known as the ‘White Day’. This festival has a interesting and somewhat unconventional tradition, on February 14 women present chocolates or gifts to the men they love to express their feelings for them. As chocolates are the most popular gift in the country, it is a must for Japanese Valentine’s Day celebrations. Gift shops all over Japan stock their shelves with all types and varieties of chocolate a month before Valentine’s Day. However most Japanese believe that store-bought chocolate is not a gift of true love as it is considered not sincere enough. Therefore the epitome of love and sincerity are hand made chocolates and sweets. It is also common practice for women to give chocolates to any male close to them, such as colleagues and male friends. This kind of chocolate-gift is called giri-choco. ‘Giri’ in Japanese means obligation hence these types of chocolates has no romantic association. And as compared to chocolates given to loved ones, Giri chocolates are mostly bought from the store. White Day celebration in Japan is said to have been initiated as a marketing tool by marshmallow chocolate company in the 1960s. On March 14 or White Day, men are supposed to give return gifts of chocolates to women who gifted them chocolates on February 14. The color of the chocolate is generally white because of the name of the day. Today men also give flowers, candies and other gifts along with the chocolates.
Korea – The Valentine’s Day celebrations in Korea is quite similar to their neighbors Japan. Females give chocolates and gifts to males on February 14 and the favour is returned the same way by the men on March 14 (White Day). But “White Day” in Korea is a day where many young men confess their love for the first time to their sweethearts on this occasion. And then there is April 14, also known as “Black Day”, specially set aside for those people who have no particular romantic partners. The curious name of the day probably comes from the fact that on this date, individuals who are not in any relationship get together and partake of Jajang noodles, which are black in color.
Taiwan – Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Taiwan on February 14, but there is also a special Valentine’s Day on July 7 of the lunar calendar, based on an ancient Chinese folktale. Both dates are regarded as equally as important. It is common for men to purchase expensive bouquets of roses and other flowers for their sweethearts on these days as a sign of their love. In Taiwanese culture, the color and number of the roses holds much significance. For example, one red rose means “an only love,” eleven roses means “a favorite,” ninety-nine roses means “forever,” and one hundred eight roses means “marry me.”