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February 14th, Valentine’s Day – you either love it or you hate it! It’s a day anticipated by many loved up couples and dreaded by numerous singletons. Even a few loved up couples refuse to participate in the celebration of Valentine’s Day, viewing it as a huge commercial sham because prices are hiked up and people almost feel pressured into buying something or joining in on the fun. So how are you going to celebrate this Valentine’s Day?
In olden days, European countries used to have their own Valentine’s Day customs. For example, Valentine’s Day in Italy was seen as a Spring festival and was held in open air where people would gather under the shade of trees or in beautiful gardens. There they would listen to music and read out poetry. Just the imagery of it all is totally enchanting and we’d very much prefer to participate in the sophistication of the old Italian Valentine’s Day custom but it hasn’t been celebrated in this way for centuries.
In Scotland the custom was similar – Valentine’s Day was also celebrated with a type of festival, where an equal number of single males and females were in attendance. Both men and women wrote their names on a piece of paper and placed it into a hat (one for the ladies and another for the men). The females then picked a name from the hat containing the men names and wore the piece of paper with the name of their partner over their hearts. This reminds us a little of the sorting hat situation in Harry Potter but it’s a nice idea considering no one is left out!
However, over time western civilisation has closed in on these individual European celebrations, overtaking Valentine’s Day with commercialisation and seeing it as an opportunity to make money instead of celebrating love. Across the West, Valentine’s has lost its individuality and is celebrated in most countries in exactly the same way. Western couples commemorate February the 14th by exchanging gifts (typically chocolate or flowers) and cards. They may also choose to do something bigger such as, making a nice meal for each other or even going on a short break together. Many times, you may catch a male carrying a HUGE teddy bear for his other half that has ‘I love you’ written all over its chest and nothing says ‘over the top’ as much as this. And that’s exactly what Valentine’s is nowadays – just simply over the top.
On the other hand, Valentine’s Day in the East, more specifically Japan, China and Korea, still have their own separate traditions from the West. In fact, the tradition originated in Japan but soon spread to China and Korea. Valentine’s is celebrated on two different days. On the 14th February a female will give a gift to a male and a month later, on the 14th March the male returns the gesture by giving the female a gift back. This day is called ‘White day’ and Japanese females in particular are lucky enough to pick out their own gift! Reciprocity is a hugely important attribute in Asian cultures, particularly in China so it is no wonder that the Japanese custom was a success there too.
So what are your favourite traditions? What are you planning to do for this year’s Valentine’s? We’d love to go back in time to Italy where we’d be basking in the shade of a tree from the Mediterranean winter sun, listening to music and reading poetry but no such time machine has been invented (yet!) so we’re just going to have to wait and have a laugh at our fake speed dating event instead… everyone welcome! Let’s share the LOVE this Friday! If you haven´t done it yet, join our event and come along to our “Fake Speed Dating”!!
There is not any country in the World which celebrates Valentine’s Day as a Bank Holiday, none of the governments gives a day of rest – what a pity – even so – one half of the World’s population keeps its own head in clouds while the other half feels an icy indifference as Patrick is acting in the picture.
As an adult, you appreciate the reality of your Valentine’s Day.
However, if we take into consideration that the Valentine’s Day is not – or should not be – just about buying hundreds of cute Teddy Bears or twelve dozen of roses. In several countries, a generally accepted habit that people not only exchange cards, sweets, gifts or flowers with their special “valentine”; they also present their close friends or relatives with a tiny kindness like a chocolate or a cute postcard (mainly electronically). They want to express the love and thoughtfulness to their loved ones.
The day of romance we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century but has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia. The roots of St. Valentine’s Day lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15. For 800 years the Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus. On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.
And now, we tried to collect many strange types of celebration which used to be/or actually are in practise now, or might just be legends. Some of them are not so common so do not be surprised if you are asked something similar like – for example – “What’s wrong with the people?” – in the end.
On this day it was customary for your young people to name the first eligible person (opposite sex) they met on Valentine’s Day as ‘Valentine’. After this, they are supposed to give a gift to their newly meet ‘Valentine’ and pay particular attention to them for a year.
Actually, one of the weirdest habits came from France. Valentine’s Day was the day of freedom for women because they were able to dissolve their marriage or even to cheat on their husband without any consequence. Moreover, the husband must put a good face on it.
On 14th February, many women feel obliged to give chocolates to all male co-workers, except when the day falls on a Sunday, a holiday. This is known as giri-choko (義理チョコ), from giri (“obligation”) and choko, (“chocolate”), with unpopular co-workers receiving only “ultra-obligatory” chō-giri choko cheap chocolate. This contrasts with honmei-choko (本命チョコ, favorite chocolate), chocolate given to a loved one. Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as tomo-choko (友チョコ); from tomo meaning “friend”. March 14 a “reply day”, where men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day, calling it White Day for the colour of the chocolates being offered.
In Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä which translates into “Friend’s Day”. Finnish people are more often focused on their friends, instead of their partner. Sending small cards, postcards, small gift to symbolise their friendship.
In Saudi Arabia, in 2002 and 2008, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, because the day is considered a Christian holiday. This ban has created a black market for roses and wrapping paper. In 2012 the religious police arrested more than 140 Muslims for celebrating the holiday, and confiscated all red roses from flower shops. Muslims are not allowed to celebrate the holiday, and non-Muslims can celebrate only behind closed doors.
The Dia dos Namorados (lit. “Lovers’ Day”) is celebrated on 12 June, probably because that is the day before Saint Anthony’s day, known there as the marriage saint. The February Valentine’s Day is not celebrated at all because it falls to Brazilian Carnival (that can fall anywhere from early February to early March and lasts almost a week.).
Are you going to celebrate Valentine’s Day?