February 9, 2009

What do Valentines do in other countries; Valentine’s paella anyone?

(One of the earliest Valentine's Day cards, 1910)

The Valentine’s Day, romantic festival for the lovers around the world is celebrated with joy and verve in several countries. Every year on February 14, those who believe in love take an opportunity o declare or reaffirm their love for special ones in their lives.

Many people across the world look at this holiday not only as a day to declare love for their partners, but also a day to express appreciation and respect for teachers, friends, parents, siblings or any other person who is dear to them. There are even people who organize celebrations for their pets who co-inhibit space with a partner on their own.

(Valentine's Day parade in Minsk, Belarussia)

All over the world people celebrate Valentine's Day, however, customs and traditions of celebrating the festival vary in different countries due to social, cultural and economic differences.

This year, for example, more than 50 percent of young Russians are going to celebrate the Valentine’s Day. According to Vector Market Research, 23 percent of couples are going to go to a restaurant, 11 percent – to a club and 10 percent – to friends’ house. It might be odd to celebrate the Valentine’s Day at one’s friends house, but this is a common custom in Russia to share some special occasions with friends, be it the Valentine’s Day or The Woman’s Day (8th of March.)

(Russian lovers in Moscow)

Spaniards, on the other hand, find great joy in sharing cooking lessons on how to prepare a special local dish for your Valentine’s date. While, the Valentine's Day is not a traditional Spanish celebration, during the last years it has become more and more popular, and many Spaniards are celebrating it. For example, it’s customary for husbands to send their wives bouquet of roses, why roses and not tulips? Not sure, but this is what they do.

(Mumbai, India)

As in many other countries, Valentine's traditions include making presents to the one you love, but in some countries there is more to it than just presents and dinner. Valentine’s Day traditions vary according to the country or place in the world. Different people and different cultures have different ideas about how to celebrate this event.

Valentine’s Day traditions in Japan
In Japan the Valentine’s Day is celebrated twice, first – on February 14, second – on March 14, in a month from the day.

This might be the last country that you’d think of women being the ones who buy chocolates for men, There are two kinds of Valentine’s chocolate - kiri-choco ("obligation chocolate"in Japanese, literally), which has no romantic significance at all, and hon-mei chocolate (“only for a serious love” chocolate) that is more special and for the loved one only. Both sold at Japanese department stores for the Valentine’s Day. However, Japanese women believe that chocolate bought at a store is not special enough, and they try to make chocolates (or any confectionary) at home with their own hands.

While in America, The Valentine’s Day extends only to one day, in Japan, it is not over yet - in a month after the Valentine’s Day men are obligated to give a gift to a woman in return. So, on March 14 - the White Day - is the day when men present gifts of chocolate to all the ladies who remembered them on Valentines Day. The color of the chocolate is generally white as of the “White” Day.

Valentine’s Day traditions in Britain
There are various customs of celebrating the Valentine’s Day in England, but the most fascinating way to honor the Saint patron of love is penning of verses of love affairs and matters of heart. As the day approaches, all around the country, all magazines and media of any sort publishes sonnets and verses to commemorate the St. Valentine’s Day. One does not even have to be creative and write his/her own sonnet as many are available to choose from and they change every year. Another tradition is the singing of special songs by children, who then receive gifts of candy, fruit or money. In some areas, Valentine buns are baked with caraway seeds, plums or raisins.

Valentine’s Day traditions in Australia
The gold miners in Australia, having found new found wealth from the Ballarat mines, were willing to spend some of their cold on making elaborate presents on the Valentine’s. The merchants in Australia would generally send orders of a thousand pounds at a time to make the Valentines Day grander, and to show they could do it. The most extravagant of valentines were made of a satin cushion, perfumed and decorated ornately with flowers, colored shells, ribbons etc. This treasure, contained within a neatly decorated box, was highly valued, being both fashionable and extremely expensive.

Valentine’s Day traditions in Austria
In Austria the tradition of men giving flowers to their sweethearts on the Valentine’s Day has been common for years, however, it was not just any flowers – Austrian men had to pay attention to and know the exact type of flowers their sweethearts liked – both in color and in scent. The ones who had to give exotic (non-seasonal) flowers were the ones with the hardest “job.” Nevertheless, Austrians had a privilege over other countries, like New Zealand, Japan and U.S.A., for instance – the proximity of other European countries that would have such a flower in season.

In addition to flowers and gifts in the shape of love symbols, it is also customary to present wives and husbands with decorative certificates of baptism and marriage as gifts, accompanied by verses and romantic messages of other kind.

(Danish lover's card, gaekkebrev)

Valentine’s Day traditions in Denmark
The Danish valentine card is known as a "lover's card." Older versions of this greeting came in the form of a transparency which, when held up to the light, depicted the image of a lover handing his beloved a gift. One custom in Denmark is for people to send pressed white flowers called Snowdrops to their friends. Danish men may also send a form of valentine known as a gaekkebrev (or "joking letter"). The sender of this gaekkebrev pens a rhyme but does not sign his name. Instead, he signs the message with dots...one dot for each letter in his name. If the lady who receives the card guesses the name of the sender, then she is rewarded with an Easter Egg later in the year.

This is how gaekkebrev is done: it’s a piece of paper with holes in and you send it to your friends, and they try to guess who you are. You write your name like this: ………. If your friend guess who you are you owe him an Easter egg. But if your friend can’t guess who you are, your friend owe you a Easter egg.
In the gaekkebrev there are verses and flowers called snowdrops. A verse (Danish): Mit navn det staar med prikker. Pas paa det ikke stikker. (English): My name stand with spots. Be care it doesn’t stings. Personally, I think it’s very creative and should be introduced to our Valentine’s traditions.

To learn more about Danish Easter traditions, click here.

Valentine’s Day traditions in France
In France, a custom known as "drawing for" once occurred. Unmarried individuals, of all ages, would go into houses across from each other and will call out across from one window to another, pairing off with the chosen partner. If the young man failed to be particularly enthralled with his Valentine, he would desert her. As a result, a bonfire would be lit later where the ladies could burn images of the ungrateful sweetheart and verbally abuse him in a loud tone as the effigy burned.

This ritual was eventually abandoned since it left much room for nastiness, ridicule or even outright malice, and the French government finally officially banned the custom. (Strikes around the country that happen more often in France than in any other countries combined, were enough for the government to handle.)

Instead, elegant French greetings cards known as cartes d'amities with romantic messages, were given not only because of the Valentine’s, but because it was in fashion that came from England and was very popular among the French at that time.

Valentine’s Day traditions in Italy
In Italy, Valentine's Day was once celebrated as a Spring Festival, held in the open air, where young people would gather in gardens to listen to music and poetry. In some places in Italy it is a custom to become engaged on Valentine's Day. You may also find shops selling special candy for Valentine's Day.

Over the years, this custom died out and has been replaced by a general celebration with flowers and chocolates. However, there are still couples that follow old traditions and customs, one of which is for a betrothed couple to announce their engagement on the Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day traditions in Scotland
In Scotland, Valentine's Day is celebrated with a festival. At this festival, there is an equal number of unmarried males and females, each of whom write their name (or a made-up name) on a piece of paper which is then folded and placed into a hat. One hat for the ladies and one for the men. The females then draw a name from the hat containing the men's names and vice versa. Of course, it is highly likely that the two drawn names will not match, in which event, it is usually expected that the male partner with the female who selected his name. This rite having been completed, the company split up into couples and gifts are given to the ladies. The females would then pin the name of their partner over their hearts or on their sleeves. A dance often follows and, at the end of the festival, some couples even get engaged and married.
According to another Scottish custom, the first young man or woman encountered by chance on the street or elsewhere will become that individual's Valentine. Valentine's Day gifts in Scotland are frequently given by both women and men in the form of a love-token or true-love-knot.

(99 "forever" roses, Taiwan)

Valentine’s Day traditions in Taiwan
Taiwan celebrates or observes this event two times a year: February 14th and July 7th of the lunar calendar, based on an ancient Chinese folk tale. Both dates are equally as important. Many men purchase expensive bouquets of roses and other flowers for their sweethearts on these days. According to Taiwan tradition, the color and number of the roses holds much significance.
For example, one red rose means "an only love," eleven roses means "a favorite," 99 roses means "forever," and 108 roses means "marry me."
Valentine’s Day traditions in China
Ironically, the Chinese equivalent of St. Valentine's Day falls during Ghost Month. The tradition for Lovers' Day, or Ching Ren Jie in Mandarin, has been to go out for the evening with your lover and recently, to give small gifts of flowers, or candies. Almost all decent restaurants, pubs, discos, and theatres are packed on this night, so reservations for are definitely required. Also, many places have 'special' menu prices, and they are not any cheaper than usual.

Later in the evening, the parks are totally packed with young lovers trying to find a little peace and quiet among the hundreds of other couples. Lovers' Day always falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.

To learn more about Valentine’s Day traditions in China and Taiwan, click here. Well, now that you know a bit more about Valentine’s Day traditions and celebrations around the world, it’s time to pull off a celebration based on what’s available in your own country, your town.
In my case, it’s Washington, DC, U.S.A., and I’ve got just about a few ideas I want to try this year. My beloved “guinea pig”, here I come.

1 comment:

Daly said...

Valentine's Day is special day for lovers!! Love to know about traditions of celebrating Valentines Day in different countries...