Valentine's Day is celebrated annually on Feb.14, and is dedicated to expressing love and affection.
While the holiday originated in Christian and Western cultures, it has since spread to many countries worldwide. Many cultures have their own unique way of celebrating Valentine's Day — from romantic gestures to grand celebrations, there is something for everyone to enjoy on this special day.
Here's what you need to know about Valentine's Day traditions around the world.
Canadians consider Valentine's Day to be an opportunity to express their love, both for their romantic partners and their friends and family. School children, in particular, are likely to make cards for their parents and friends. Canadians aren't afraid to splurge, either, with the average Canadian spending around $164 on Valentine's Day gifts and activities.
Parties and dances are a popular way to celebrate among young people, while adults often go on romantic dates and exchange gifts such as chocolate, jewelry, event tickets, flowers, and candy.
Despite their tendency to splurge, most people say the best Valentine's Day gift is simply spending time with their loved ones.
France is one of the most romantic countries in the world, so it's no surprise that it has a rich history of celebrating Valentine's Day. A Frenchman, the Duke of Orléans, is thought to have sent the first Valentine's Day card to his wife when he was imprisoned in London in 1415.
Though Paris may be what you think of as the most romantic city in the world, the village of St-Valentin considers itself the Village of Love.
The French consider Valentine's Day to be a holiday to celebrate adult love. While they often go out to dinner and give their romantic partners gifts of chocolate and flowers, you won't find French schoolchildren exchanging cutesy Valentines with their classmates. Similarly, friends in France don't exchange Valentine's Day cards, either.
Unlike in the west, men in Japan get to take Valentine's Day off. It's primarily a day for women to give chocolate gifts to men — and not just their romantic partners. Women give chocolates to coworkers, friends and romantic partners. But don't worry, a month later, on March 14, Japan celebrates White Day when men give gifts to women.
On Valentine's Day, the chocolates can be either homemade or store-bought. These chocolates may be giri-choco, given out of a sense of obligation, or honmei-choco, given to a romantic partner. Some companies in Japan also give chocolate gifts to their employees on Valentine's Day.
In Denmark, Valentine's Day is not as widely celebrated as in other countries. Instead, the tradition of "Gaekkebrev" is more popular. This tradition involves men sending anonymous handwritten love notes, usually accompanied by a small gift or a bouquet of flowers, to the woman they admire. The note is usually signed with dots, one for each letter of the sender's name, and the recipient must guess the sender's identity. If the recipient guesses correctly, they'll get a chocolate egg on Easter.
In Finland, Valentine's Day is also known as "Ystävänpäivä" which translates to Friend's Day. On this day, people celebrate their friendships by sending cards and gifts to their friends. It is a day to appreciate and show gratitude for the important people in one's life, not just romantic partners, and acknowledge the value of friendships.
The tradition of sending cards to friends on Valentine's Day is quite popular in Finland. People often send cards with heartfelt messages to their closest friends, expressing their appreciation and gratitude. Some people also exchange small gifts or treats with their friends on this day. In Finland, you won't feel left out on Valentine's Day if you don't have a romantic partner.
In Brazil, Feb. 14. commonly falls during Carnival, the huge celebration held during the five days before Lent. Because of this, Brazilians don't really celebrate Valentine's Day.
Instead, Dia dos Namorados (Lover's Day) is celebrated on June 12, and it is a day for couples to celebrate their love for each other. It is a popular holiday in Brazil and is considered one of the most important romantic holidays. On this day, couples exchange gifts and cards and often go out for romantic meals or dates. Some people also give little presents, called "presentinhos," to friends and family.
In South Korea, Valentine's Day is when women traditionally give chocolates to men as a sign of affection. The practice of giving chocolates is similar to the way it is done in Japan. South Koreans also celebrate White Day on March 14, when men give chocolates to women.
However, there is also another tradition in South Korea called Black Day, which is held on April 14, after Valentine's Day and White Day have passed. On this day, single people gather together to eat Jajangmyeon, which is a type of Korean noodle dish made with black bean sauce. The tradition of eating Jajangmyeon on Black Day is said to have originated in the 1990s and is a way for single people to commiserate about their single status and share their feelings with others.
El Día del Amor y la Amistad, or Day of Love and Friendship in English, is celebrated on Feb. 14. The holiday is similar to Valentine's Day in that it is a time to express love and affection to romantic partners, friends, and family members. On this day, people exchange gifts such as flowers, chocolates and cards with their loved ones.
It is a day to celebrate love and friendship in all forms and to appreciate the people who are important in one's life. In some cities in Mexico, parades and festivals are held to celebrate El Día del Amor y la Amistad. Shops and homes are often decorated with red accessories. These events often include music, dancing and food and provide an opportunity for people to come together and enjoy the company of others.
In England, Valentine's Day is typically celebrated by couples who exchange gifts, cards and flowers as a symbol of their love and affection for each other. It is also a popular day for romantic meals and dates.
Another tradition in Norfolk is the Jack Valentine tradition, which is celebrated on Valentine's Eve (Feb. 13) rather than on Valentine's Day itself. According to this tradition, young men would leave gifts and small presents at the doorsteps of their sweethearts, knock on the door, and then run away before they were seen. The gifts were often left anonymously and the recipients would try to guess the identity of their secret admirer. Today, this tradition lives on, but it's usually a gift left for children.
In Wales, it's customary to celebrate St. Dwynwen's Day instead of Valentine's Day. St. Dwynwen's Day is celebrated on Jan. 25 and is the most romantic holiday of the year. It's named after St. Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. On this day, it is traditional for men to give women gifts, particularly hand-carved wooden spoons. The tradition of giving wooden spoons as gifts is believed to have originated from Welsh sailors, who would carve designs into wooden spoons while at sea to give to their lovers upon their return home.
If you're visiting Slovenia on Valentine's Day, don't expect to spend your day at a spa eating chocolates. In Slovenia, St. Valentine is also considered a patron saint of spring, and Feb. 14 is a prime day for working in the fields. Slovenians typically celebrate romance on St. Gregory's Day, which falls on March 12. This day is also known as "Gregorjevo." It is a traditional time for young couples to exchange gifts and express their love for each other.
Another fun custom on St. Gregory's Day is to light candles and send them down the river. Children build small houses and boats for the lights and place them in the river to commemorate St. Gregory, tossing light into the water to celebrate spring.
If you're looking for a celebration of the ultimate expression of love on Valentine's Day, you can find it in the Philippines. The government has implemented a program that assists couples who want to get married but may not have the means to pay for a traditional wedding. The program is called the "Kasalang Bayan" or Mass Wedding program, it is organized by the government and held in public spaces such as town halls or parks. These mass weddings are often held on Valentine's Day, and the government provides the venue, wedding attire and other basic wedding necessities for the couples.
Celebrating love and friendship
Valentine's Day is celebrated in many different ways around the world. In some countries, it's all about romantic love, while in others, it's a day to celebrate with your friends and family.
Valentine's Day traditions may vary, but the common theme is the expression of love and appreciation.