The Weird and Wonderful Valentine's Day Traditions Throughout the World
Across the world people are showing their love for one another today as part of Valentine's Day. Whilst here in Britain these days it is simply the case of couples buying each other chocolates and flowers and going for a romantic meal out, there are some slightly more unusual traditions in other cultures. Here we look at some of the best current and historical traditions enjoyed on Valentine's Day:
Britain: Valentine's Day in the UK hasn't always been such a boring, commercialised celebration. Traditionally, it has been considered the day on which birds chose their mates, and in parts of the county of Sussex, it is still referred to as the Birds' Wedding Day. On the theme of birds there are also some very unusual superstitions surrounding the day. If a woman saw a sparrow flying overhead, it meant she would marry a poor man but be happy, or alternatively if she saw a goldfinch then she would marry a rich man. If she saw a robin then it meant she would marry a sailor...apparently.
Slovenia: St Valentine was one of the saints of Spring in Slovenia, and it is said that plants and flowers start to grow on this day. Often it is the first day of the New Year when work starts on vineyards and in the fields. This may not be as romantic as other cultures, but you can't argue it's not more productive!
Lithuania and Latvia: After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, both these countries started celebrating Valentine's Day with people placing stickers on the faces and clothing of friends and relatives....obviously.
Japan: The emphasis is on women on the 14th February in Japan, when they are expected to hand out different types of chocolate as gifts. On ‘White Day' there is giri-choco, or "obligation chocolate", which is given to male friends or colleagues, and there is honmei-choco, or "true feeling chocolate", which is usually given to partners or prospective boyfriends. One month later, on ‘Black Day' the men who received the latter, are expected to return gifts that are at least two or three times of the value. Indeed, even returning chocolate of equal value can be considered a way of cutting the relationship.
South Korea: In much the same way as Japan, the celebration involves a to-and-fro of gift giving on February and March 14th. However, in South Korea it doesn't end there. Instead on April 14th anyone who didn't receive the attention they were hoping for will go for a meal of black noodles. That's right, not only do you not receive the gifts or love that you wanted, but they then have to be reminded of it a month later. And people think Valentine's Day is depressing in the UK!
Venezuela: In 2009 President Hugo Chávez tried to delay the holiday, claiming that people would be too busy concentrating on the referendum vote on February 15th instead. He suggested that on the 14th people could "maybe have a little kiss or something very superficial" and recommended that people could celebrate a week of love after the referendum vote. Who said romance was dead?