We’re familiar with the classic gift exchange on February 14 between couples in the U.S., but did you know nations worldwide celebrate Valentine’s Day with beloved traditions and unique twists? The following four countries have a unique Valentine Day origins, beliefs, and celebrations.
Most regions of the Middle East discourage a celebration that may infringe on their religious beliefs. This is why protests sometimes arise during this holiday. In Kabul, couples will write the name of their beloved on a red flower or bouquet on Flower Street to confess their love. Others will send a simple text message letting the other know their feelings with a kind message of encouragement.
With so many festivities going on during February, such as Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilians pushed Valentine’s Day celebrations to June 12, known as Dia dos Namorados, or Day of Lovers. This new date falls on the day before Saint Anthony of Padua’s Day or Festas Juninas, in June Festivals. During this month, citizens recognize three Catholic solemnities named: Saint Anthony, John the Baptist, and Saint Peter. Saint Anthony is remembered as the marriage saint, which is why Brazilians celebrate Dia dos Namorados on June 12th.
Estonians celebrate in the same manner as U.S. Americans, but with a twist. Instead of Valentine’s Day, it’s Friendship Day. Family and friends exchange gifts among each other focusing on celebrating non-romantic relationships. This is a time for singles to feel involved and cherished. For those looking to find true love, there is a “love bus” where all the single ladies (and men, of course!) can meet others seeking that special someone.
Some Welsh natives celebrate Saint Dwynwen, in place of Valentine’s Day. This idea originates from a folktale about a princess falling in love with a local lad. However, they cannot marry because of a pre-existing arranged marriage. An angel freezes the lad in order to help the princess forget; here comes the plot twist. The story ends with the princess obtaining three wishes: unthawing the lad, helping all lovers, and becoming a nun so she can is no longer marry. Despite the not-so-romantic ending, locals still celebrate Saint Dwynwen with a nice evening out with their sweetheart or exchanging carved lovespoons, symbolizing luck, support, and faith.
While Valentine’s Day is a fun time to exchange gifts and enjoy extravagant festivities, many people still spend this romantic holiday as a day of appreciation for their significant other. Wherever you may be spending Valentine’s Day this year, enjoy your day with close friends, family, and loved ones, and share your traditions in the comments!
Sharon Schweitzer and Esther Sanchez co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is an award-winning entrepreneur, cross-cultural trainer, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, onNat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.
Esther Sanchez is a Spring 2018 Cross-Cultural Communication intern with Access to Culture. She is currently attending the University of Texas at Austin as a Journalism major and working to earn a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and a certificate in Computer Science. She plans to use these skills to tell stories through virtual reality from around the world. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.