Coming up on February 14th, America will deck itself out in pink and red and be filled with flowers and chocloates on the day of love, which we refer to as Valentine’s Day, where people will celebrate their love with each other. But elsewhere, other countries have different traditions they practice on February 14th, while some countries celebrate the holiday on a completely different day. Here are some traditions that do occur on February 14th…
Denmark celebrates on February 14th in similar ways as America, but with a few twists. They exchange “lovers’ cards”, which started out as transparent cards that showed an image of the card-giver giving their sweetheart a present when held up to the light. Now, any cards given on Valentine’s Day are considered “lovers’ cards”. They also give each other flowers, but instead of roses they exchange pressed white flowers, which they call “snowdrops”. But unlike America, the men give the women a gaekkebrev (“joking letter”), which is a funny poem or rhyme written on paper cut out with designs, and it is signed with only anonymous dots. The women try to guess who sent them it, and if they guess correctly they earn an Easter egg later that year.
Near Denmark, Finland celebrates Valentine’s Day as a day for friendship, not for lovers. There, they call Valentine’s Day Ystävänpäivä, which means “Friendship Day”. They emphasize the value of friends because friends are there for you through the good times and bad, but as life gets busy you don’t get to see each other all the time. So, Valentine’s Day is a day to “say ‘thanks’ to our friends, celebrate human generosity and to remember what friends have been beside us at trying times”. They also include family, neighbors, and colleagues in this celebration, along with the classic- sweethearts.
Also on February 14th, all the way on a different continent, South Africa celebrates with festivals, flowers, and tokens of love just like many other places in the world. What makes them different though it that is it customary for the women “to wear their hearts on their sleeve”. They pin the name of their love interest on their shirt sleeve (which is an ancient Roman tradition known as Lupercalia, which is a festival). This is how some men learn of their secret admirers, while other men might also join in on this custom.
Here are some other quick facts about countries who also have different Valentines’ Day customs than we do in America when it comes to gift giving on February 14th-
Maybe this year, try out a new Valentine’s Day tradition, like celebrating Valentine’s Day as a day for friendship and for everyone else in your life like the Finnish!