18 Valentine’s Day Customs From Around the World

18 Valentine’s Day Customs From Around the World

Valentines heart hands

Posted February 13, 2024

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Looking for unique ways to shower the ones you love with gifts and praise for Valentine’s Day? We’ve got you covered with inspiration from different cultures around the world who honor love in unique ways. Here are 18 of the sweetest ways that people declare their love on Valentine’s Day from Bulgaria to Guatemala and beyond.

  1. In Guatemala City, Guatemala, the Old Love Parade is held on Valentine’s Day, or El Día del Cariño (Day of Affection). The parade is put on by senior citizens who ride colorful parade floats through the streets while wearing equally vibrant clothes.
  1. In South Korea, the 14th is always a love day, each month has a different name and tradition. On Valentine’s Day, only women give gifts–typically they give their beloved, chocolates. A month later, on March 14th, known as White Day, men reply by giving chocolates and gifts to their partners. Single people celebrate Black Day on April 14th by eating bowls of jajangmyeon (black bean-paste noodles).
South Korea landmark building
  1. In Germany, Cupid isn’t an icon of love, instead, little piglets are. The pigs represent lust and luck and are usually seen on Valentine’s Day cards holding flowers. The pig cards are paired with gigantic ginger cookies that are typically adorned with provocative quotes and four-leaf clovers which are another symbol for luck.
  1. In Finland, February 14th is Ystävänpäivä or Friendship Day in honor of platonic love.
  1. In Ghana, Valentine’s Day is appropriately known as National Chocolate Day. The sweet treat is a major national export and on February 14th it can be enjoyed all around the country.
  1. In Bulgaria, February 14th is St. Trifon Zarezan’s Day or Winemakers Day. Whether you’re single or in love, there’s no better excuse to enjoy a glass of wine with those nearest and dearest to you.
Bulgarian wine
  1. In Denmark, lovers exchange pressed white flowers in cards called snowdrops. Men give anonymous gaekkebrev (joking letters) in the form of a comical poem or rhyme written on intricately cut paper. Women try to guess who their secret admirer is through context clues in the letter.
  1. In some regions of Iraq, people decorate red apples with cloves to represent Adam and Eve. They give the adorned fruit to their partner for love and prosperity.
  1. In England, women used to place five bay leaves at the corners and center of their pillows to encourage sweet dreams of their future husbands. In Norfolk, England, Valentine’s Day has a special gift-giving character. Jack Valentine comes to town to give gifts to children on Valentine’s Day.
  1. In South Africa, women have a bold approach to Valentine’s Day and quite literally wear their heart on their sleeves. They pin a piece of paper to their shirts with the name of their crush written on it so everyone can see who they admire.
  1. In The Philippines, mass weddings are held on Valentine’s Day as thousands of couples exchange vows in ceremonies that are typically funded by the government.
Philippine wedding on the beach.
Philippine wedding on the beach.
  1. In France, the French continue to honor the tradition of giving cards on Valentine’s Day. This custom is believed to have started in 1415 when the French Duke of Orleans sent love letters to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. There’s a past French Valentine’s Day tradition that’s been banned by the government. The loterie d’amour (drawing for love) is an event in which men and women would face each other and call for the person they wanted to pair with. Men who didn’t like the woman who called for them could leave them for other women. At the end of the festivity women who were left alone would have a bonfire and burn pictures of the men who abandoned them.
  1. In Saudi Arabia, Valentine’s Day is illegal. Public displays of affection are criminal in the country but that doesn’t stop romantics from buying red roses from secret vendors to give to their sweetheart.
  1. In Italy, women once believed that the first man they’d see on Valentine’s Day would be their future husband. They’d wake up at dawn to search for their beloved. It was thought that they’d marry the first man they saw within a year–-or at least someone who looked a lot like him.
  1. In Japan, women give specific chocolates out on Valentine’s Day. For their beloved they gift expensive honmei-choco (true feeling chocolate) while acquaintances are given cheaper giri-choco (obligation chocolate).
Expensive chocolates for Valentine's Day
  1. In Slovenia, St. Valentine is a patron saint of spring. It’s believed that on February 14th, birds propose to each other and the mating season begins. To honor the spring season folks walk barefoot through fields.
  1. In Brazil, the Dia dos Namorados (Lovers Day) festival is celebrated on February 14th. There are many celebrations of music and dance and people tend to spoil the object of their affection with gifts of flowers and chocolate.
  1. In Thailand, single women head to temple to pray for a husband on Valentine’s Day. They lay red roses, candles, and incense at shrines for the Hindu triple deity of supreme divinity, Trimurti.
Temple - Dedication to Trimurti
Temple – Dedication to Trimurti

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  • Lola Méndez is a travel writer and full-time globetrotter sharing her adventures on Miss Filatelista. She travels to develop her own worldview and has explored over 50 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.