Valentine's Day Around the World
Valentine's Day, February 14th, is one of the most popular holidays around the world. Different cultures and countries around the world celebrate love on Valentine’s Day, as well as throughout the year. Read on to take a tour of the different ways people celebrate the many forms of love.
Africa celebrates this romantic holiday much like western cultures do, but some countries have their own specific ways of observing. Rwanda’s celebration does not follow any special African custom. Exchanging gifts and going out to a movie or to dinner are typical activities of the day. In Ghana, Valentine’s Day is highly celebrated, surpassed only by Christmas and Easter. The focus here is on the love couples share, but unlike western culture wearing red and giving flowers are not part of the tradition. Ghanaians also mark the day as National Chocolate Day as instituted by the Ghana Tourism Authority. Having it coincide with Valentine’s Day is a way of boosting consumption of Ghanaian chocolate, promoting local tourism and adding a healthy orientation to the holiday. Meanwhile in Uganda, especially the capital city of Kampala, dressing in red and black colors are quite important to mark the occasion. Some Zambians make a big deal about V-day, and other do not. Restaurants and shops offer sales and dinner specials for those partaking of the festivities, but if you do not have a partner or significant other to shop for or go out with, never fear. In Zambia it is also common for families and friends to get together to show their affection for one another.
Singapore, China, and South Korea celebrate this day of affection, spending the largest amounts of money on valentine gifts in all East Asia. They commemorate February 14th in much the way westerners do with chocolates and the like. In the Philippines, red roses are the way to show you care, as flower prices rise around Araw ng mga Puso, their Valentine’s Day. Another popular tradition for Filipinos is to get married on February 14. Mass weddings at malls and other public areas are commonplace and even sponsored by the government.
Some Asian countries have valentine’s customs that are a little different from those that western cultures consider to be part of the holiday. For example, in some cities in Lebanon, Valentine's Day is celebrated with the entire family – it is more about family love than about a couple's love. A tasty Lebanese valentine’s gift is often a bouquet of cupcakes instead of flowers. In Israel, the tradition of Tu B’Av has been revived and transformed into the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day but takes place in late August (the Jewish month of Av), not February. The Qixi Festival is the "Chinese Valentine's Day" and is recognized on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar (also late August). In Japan, many people enjoy a romantic "date night" associated with Saint Valentine's Day on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile in South Korea, there are love-related holidays on the 14th day of every month, such as Candle Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day. It sounds like South Koreans share love and affection in a variety of wonderful ways.
However, not all Asian countries celebrate Valentine's Day. Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and India are among the countries that do not readily approve of this romantic holiday. Whether due to religious, cultural, or governmental reasons, Valentine’s Day is not openly celebrated by the populace of these places. Many modern folx do take part in the holiday, but often only in the privacy of their own homes.
As Australians celebrate love in spectacular style, V-day is no exception. Not only are gifts of flowers and jewelry commonplace, but elaborately designed cards are a trademark of the day. This tradition dates back to the gold rush in Victoria in the mid-nineteenth century. Those who mined the shiny nuggets used their newfound wealth to present their beloveds with beautifully decorated and adorned valentine’s cards, and so the card giving continues today though mostly my email. But in Australia, Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers. It is also a time to strengthen the love and the bond with family, friends, colleagues and even neighbors. Traditional carnivals, theatre and other festivals allow everyone to enjoy the many forms of love on Valentine’s Day.
Moving our attention westward, many European countries join in the Valentine festivities including Spain, Greece, France, Norway, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. In fact, the UK spends around £1.3 billion on chocolates, flowers,
and other Valentine’s Day presents, including an estimated 25 million cards.
In Ireland, many Christians make a pilgrimage to Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church on St. Valentine’s Day to say a prayer in hopes of finding their true love. France celebrates "Fête des Amoureux" every two years on the Sunday closest to February 14th by dressing up in 19th century costumes and putting on a program for the village.
Of course, Valentine's Day is not just for folx who are in love. The Finns’ Valentine's Day is called ystävänpäivä which translates into "Friend's Day." As the name implies, this day is more about recognizing friendship rather than significant others.
The celebration of love in South and Central America has its own special flavor. Many Latin Americans, aside from celebrating “Day of Lovers” and “Day of Love and Friendship,” also perform acts of appreciation and kindness for their friends on Día del Cariño (“Affection Day”). In Brazil, Dia dos Namorados ("Lovers' Day") is celebrated on June 12 in honor of St. Anthony, the saint of marriage. Colombia commemorates Día del amor y la amistad (“Day of Love and Friendship”) on the third Saturday in September.
Both the US and Canada enjoy V-day in much the same manner. The US likes to celebrate in a big way, spending over 160 billion dollars each year and mailing out about 190 million cards. Children in the US exchange hundreds of millions of cards with their classmates on Valentine’s Day, although this year will likely be different due to homeschooling and other Covid-19 compliant procedures.
While those who identify on the aromantic spectrum (aros) experience little to no romantic attraction, a week after Valentine’s Day starts Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week. This annual, international celebration, now in its 6th year, spreads awareness and acceptance of aromanticism while also celebrating it. Aros may or may not engage in activities that are usually viewed as romantic (a perfect example is kissing), be uncomfortable with romance, be single, have a partner or be married - those are specific characteristics that vary among aromantic people. It is important to understand that aromanticism is a romantic orientation, not a sexual one. For some aromantic folx Valentine's Day is just another day, while for others it can be a time to connect and celebrate the people they care about.
No matter what country you are in, what cultures you belong to, or if you celebrate or not, Valentine’s Day can remind us of love with its heart-shaped candies, rosy red hearts, and beautiful flowers. And we know there are many forms of love – love for a significant other, for a relative or friend, for a pet, even for nature.
This year, Queery wants to remind everyone that one way of showing love to the people in our lives is with a handwritten card. This simple connective act boosts joy in both the sender and receiver. It is a simple token of caring, especially during these pandemic times, and is a great way to let someone know they are important to you.
Queermark’s “Many Forms of Love'' LGBTQ+ affirming card is perfect to give to anyone you care about whether for Valentine’s Day or any time. You’ll find this “candy” heart-covered card available on Queery’s website with 50% of the proceeds benefiting The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center’s TransMission, a scholarship program that offers assistance with the cost for gender-affirming medical, legal or other needs that insurance does not cover.
With these cards you will not only boost joy for yourself and someone else, but you can celebrate those you care about AND help a great cause by supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
Thank you for taking this quick trip around the world to find out how various countries and cultures celebrate the many forms of love throughout the year. And a reminder: Valentine's Day is February 14th. Enjoy the day, no matter how you celebrate it (or not)!