Think you know Valentine’s day, and how the world celebrates it?
Well, it might universally be the day when men and women declare their love, but they certainly don’t all do it the same way. Far from it. In some parts of the world, it can be pretty surprising, even downright odd.
The origins of our Valentine’s Day stretch back to not one, but three Christian martyrs, all of whom were given the title of Saint Valentine.
One of them is said to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. On the final night before his execution, he wrote to her what was reputedly the first card with the words ‘from your valentine’.
These days, over a billion Valentine’s cards are sent every February. Only the Christmas card deluge is larger. In America, teacher’s get the most cards, whilst at least 1000 cards arrive in Verona, Italy every year, addressed to Shakespeare’s most romantic character, Juliet.
Apparently, pets do pretty well out of the 14th February, getting plenty of gifts, whilst it is reported that 15% of women actually send flowers to themselves.
In Norfolk, the local custom is not just for cards, but for a visit from Jack Valentine, otherwise known as Old Father or Old Mother Valentine. He, or she, leaves sweets and presents for local children on the back step.
In Wales, they often have two bites at the cherry, celebrating St Dwynwen’s Day, the patron saint of Welsh lovers on 25th January, as well as good old St Valentine.
Danish men show a rather more artistic side in their efforts to woo a lover. On Valentinsdag, they write a ‘gaekkebrev’, a funny, rhyming poem. It’s signed with a series of dots, one for each letter of the suitor’s name (hint, hint).
In places like Finland, ‘Ystavanpaiva’ or ‘Friend’s Day’ is more about celebrating friendship than promoting romance. Lithuanians and Latvians are a little more up-front in their efforts to do this, putting stickers on the faces of friends and relatives.
In places like Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Puerto Rico, a ‘Day of Love and Friendship’ means doing acts of appreciation for friends.
In the Far East, Japan goes crazy with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. But there is a difference, it’s the woman who gives to the man. The same thing happens in Korea. However, they take things further. A month after the man receives his chocs, on ‘White Day’, he is supposed to return the favour. If a woman doesn’t get anything back, the tradition is to wear black and eat black noodles.
The Mexicans certainly don’t hold back in declaring their love. The bolder men take a mariachi band or trio of singers to serenade the woman of their dreams, and possibly annoy her neighbours.
Malaysian women get rather fruity on their ‘Day of Love’ in August. They write their phone number on an orange, then throw it into the river, hoping to eventually get a call from someone eligible. A pretty long shot.
Brazilian women narrow things down a little by writing the names of their crushes on strips of paper. Then, they pick one from the pile to decide whom to pursue.
So, what’s your best Valentine’s Day story? Let us know the best (and the worst) times you’ve had. We’d love to hear all about it.