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Article: Valentine’s Day – More Than A Day for Lovers!

Valentine’s Day – More Than A Day for Lovers!

Valentine’s Day might have begun as a day to celebrate love and romance but it has grown into so much more!

In many countries, it’s a day to celebrate friendship and acquaintanceships of all sorts, including workmates and bosses. In others, such as Korea and Japan, Valentine’s Day is a man’s day, with men receiving chocolates and special gifts from their loved ones (a custom that’s happily reciprocated a month later!). In Germany, people exchange chocolate pigs for good luck, in Denmark, men compose funny poems or ‘gaekkebrev’ for their sweethearts and in the Philippines, they hold mass wedding ceremonies where hundreds exchange or renew their vows annually.

With Valentine’s Day coming soon, we’re delighted to share with you these and other wonderful stories of how people celebrate this festive day around the world!

Valentines day alternatives

Denmark: Snowdrops and Joke Letters

In Denmark, instead of the traditional bouquet of red roses, people opt for small white flowers called snowdrops. It’s a great flower of choice, considering they come into bloom in February and March when there’s still snow underfoot and most other flowers are dormant. Plus, they are so delicate and pretty.

Snowdrops in Denmark

Snowdrops in Denmark

Credit: The Danish Canadian National Museum

The Danish, particularly men, also traditionally send their sweethearts joke letters or funny poems called ‘gaekkebrev’. This ritual is thought to emanate from the centuries-old folklore stating that when the ‘vintergaekke’ (snowdrop plants or ‘winter teases’) peek out from under the snow, then it’s time to share a greeting with someone you care about.

Gaekkebrev are sent anonymously and signed only with dots, so the lucky receiver has to guess who it’s from. And in a wonderfully festive spirit, if the receiver guesses correctly, then the sender has to give them an Easter egg later in the Spring. Incorrect guess? Then vice versa - the receiver has to gift the sender with an Easter egg! 

South Korea: It’s a Man’s Day

They do Valentine’s Day a bit differently in South Korea! Women are the gift givers, bestowing their loved ones with chocolates and flowers as a sign of affection. Then, according to tradition, men return the favour by offering gifts the following month on what’s become known as ‘White Day’.

First celebrated just over 35 years ago, White Day (also known as 2nd Valentine’s Day) takes place on the 14th March and is celebrated along the same lines as the February event, but with men giving primarily white gifts, such as white chocolate and lingerie. And (you guessed it!), that’s where the name originated from.

And in another approach, highly favourable to the fairer sex, many Koreans adopt the so-called ‘Rule of Three’ whereby the reciprocal gift given by the man must be about three times the value of the gift he received on Valentine’s Day. Apparently, this is not as yet widely expected or practised, but some of us would consider it to have enormous merit!

White Day or 2nd Valentine’s Day in Korea

White Day or 2nd Valentine’s Day in Korea

Credit: 90 Day Korea

Japan: Gift-Giving With Extra Care

Like in Korea, women give gifts to men on Valentine’s Day and the men reciprocate exactly one month later on ‘White Day’, the 14th March. These days of celebration are not exclusively for romantic partners either, so you can have lots of fun whether or not you have a special someone in your life. People exchange gifts with platonic friends, acquaintances, co-workers and even their bosses.

And when it comes to deciding what to give, chocolate is the most popular choice. Which is no big surprise considering it was a Japanese confectionery company that was largely responsible for adopting Valentine’s Day from the west in the 1950s. Attention, though! Not just any selection of chocolate will do …

When giving chocolates to someone on Valentine’s Day, you first have to decide how you define your relationship with them. If it’s a romantic or love interest, then your selection falls under the ‘honmei choco’ (true love) category. These are chocolates that are more on the expensive side, sometimes personalised or with added decoration. If the relationship has more of a friendship vibe or if you feel obligated to buy (gift-giving being a deeply embedded tradition in Japan), then you’ll opt for the ‘giri choco’ (obligation chocolate) variety. These can be purchased at considerably lower cost from a supermarket or convenience store, yet still preserve the good manners of the Valentine tradition.

Japanese Valentine’s Day Chocolates

Japanese Valentine’s Day Chocolates

Credit: JCCCW

Germany: Chocolate Pigs Join the Celebration

Valentine’s Day (‘Valentinstag’) has only become popular during the last few decades in Germany, but they’ve made up for lost time by adding some really captivating twists to the special day! And this is in addition to taking on wholeheartedly the more enduring customs of exchanging cards, sweet treats and flowers with their loved ones. This is between adults only – the tradition has yet to catch on among younger people, as it has in some other countries.

The most endearing feature of the celebration in Germany (in our view, at least!) is the preponderance of the pig as a symbol of luck and lust. The double meaning is intended, with little pigs often drawn in rather provocative poses on cards and atop chocolates. They’re also shown holding four-leaf clovers (good luck ahead!) and climbing up a ladder on a red heart. So don’t be offended if you’re given a pig-themed gift – quite the opposite is intended!

Another enticing characteristic of Valentine’s Day in this country is the exchange of big ginger cookies, baked in the shape of a heart (no, not a pig!) and decorated with frosting. These cookies are also sold at Christmastime but are much more popular on Valentine’s Day. They also usually have a message or a few words written on top that express the lover’s intentions. (So much scope for imagination here!)

The German Valentine’s Pig: A Symbol of Love & Lust

The German Valentine’s Pig: A Symbol of Love & Lust

Credit: German Culture

Ghana: A Chocolate Revelry

The chocolate pig might be a highlight of Valentine’s Day in Germany, but in Ghana they really turn it on when it comes to chocolate! Since 2007, Ghanaians have been celebrating not only Valentine’s Day on the 14th February but also National Chocolate Day! Dinners, tastings and special events are held throughout the country to promote the cocoa bean – Ghana’s top agricultural export. (What an inspired idea!)

And why promote indulging in chocolate for just one day when you can do so for an entire week? In 2021, on the back of the Valentine’s/Chocolate Day combo, Ghana’s National Chocolate Week was introduced. The week’s festivities include numerous chocolate-themed attractions including two ‘chocolate cities’ where chocolatiers proudly display their chocolate creations and cocoa goods – not only chocolate bars and muffins and the like, but also other wonderful products such as facial bar scrubs and soaps.  

Not surprisingly then, chocolate is one of the most popular Valentine’s gifts exchanged in Ghana. They also traditionally share red clothing (the colour of love), flowers and wine. Stuffed animals, such as teddy bears, are also a big thing. Not only cute, they’re promoted as comforting and loyal partners who will always be there when you need them😊.

Valentine’s/National Chocolate Day in Ghana

Valentine’s/National Chocolate Day in Ghana

Credit: Joy Online

Finland: Valentine’s for Friends

In Finland, Valentine’s Day is a day of friendship and platonic love. It’s even called Ystävänpäivä, meaning ‘Friends’ Day’, in acknowledgement of how much the Finns treasure friendship. Celebrated by single people, couples and families alike, this is a special day when people gather to share meals and do sporting activities, such as skating and sledding.

As in some other countries, Valentine’s Day is a relative newcomer to the festive scene, being adopted in the 1980s, initially among school children who were encouraged to make gifts and cards for their loved ones. The custom then became popular among adults and is now a much-awaited annual event, with roots firmly established in the culture. It’s officially included in Finnish calendars and boasts being the second most popular card giving holiday after Christmas.

In 2015, only 20 years after being officially listed as a festive event, three million cards were sent, many by women to their dearest friends. And the National Postal Service has to employ around 150 extra workers every year just to cope with the mail traffic of the season! Of course, chocolates and flowers, brunches and date nights also play a big role in this day of friendship celebration!

‘Friendship Day’ in Finland

‘Friendship Day’ in Finland

Credit: This is Finland

The Philippines: Valentine’s Wedding Vows

To say that Valentine’s Day is a big event in the Philippines would be an understatement. From the first week in February, many shops, local establishments and entire streets are lavishly adorned with flowers and heart decorations. About 80% of Filipinos are thought to celebrate this day of friendship, love and romance, buying gifts for their partners, family members, friends and colleagues.

Every year, people flock to the Dangwa Flower Market in Manila, the area becoming transformed into one of the busiest parts of the country in February. Huge varieties of flowers are available, with different meanings believed to be connected to different types (so choose carefully!).

And to add to the joy of the occasion, Filipinos are known for celebrating Valentine’s Day with mass wedding ceremonies! For more than a decade, hundreds of couples have been gathering to exchange vows in civil ceremonies, usually sponsored by government agencies as a form of public service. This is not only a cost-effective way of tying the knot, but also a great way to celebrate en masse! What’s more, the ceremonies also attract couples who’ve been married for years, who make the most of the wonderful opportunity to renew their vows.

Mass Weddings in the Philippines

Mass Weddings in the Philippines

Credit: Time

Norfolk, England: Mr Jack Valentine Pays a Visit

Of all the Valentine’s traditions we’ve come across, this has to be the most captivating! Every year on the 13th February, hot on the heels of Santa Claus, gift-bearer Mr Jack Valentine descends on the English county of Norfolk. For the past 200 years or so, he’s been working tirelessly and silently under the cover of darkness on Valentine’s Eve to deliver small gifts on the porches and thresholds of houses here and there throughout the county.

So, who is this Mr Jack Valentine? we hear you ask. The answer - nobody knows! He’s never been seen and it remains a mystery as to who he is, where he’s from and what he looks like. And nobody knows why he’s never ventured beyond Norfolk, the city of Norwich in particular!

He is known, however, to be cheeky, fun-loving and all about family. He leaves presents for everyone, not just starry-eyed lovers. But be warned – he’s rather unpredictable with his selection of gifts. His offerings can be quite affectionate and Valentine-appropriate, such as flowers and jewellery, but also not quite so nice – a lump of coal or meaningless scribble in a jewellery box. Sometimes he just knocks and runs away! And he's quite notorious for attaching a string to a gift, hiding himself away and then pulling on the gift as the recipient reaches for it! Children especially get a real kick out of this prank! 

Mr Jack Valentine Playing a Trick on Children

Mr Jack Valentine Playing a Trick on Children

Credit: Archant

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 However you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day this year, may it be full of love and joy! And why limit the fun to the 14th February? Head over to Bonbon Fusion where we have Date Night Crackers for great entertainment any day or night of the year!

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