Valentine’s Day Traditions from Around the World

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February 14, Valentine’s Day, the day of love. Some celebrate it, some ignore it and some find unique ways to mark the day.

I enjoyed learning about holiday traditions from around the world, for Christmas and New Year’s. Is Valentine’s Day a global holiday? I wanted to know. It turns out, it is. Some countries celebrate in ways similar to the US. And others put their own unique spin on the day.

Check out these Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world. You might want to change things up this year!

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The Origins of Valentine’s Day

There are several stories about the origination of Valentine’s Day. The Catholic Church recognizes three saints named Valentine, all of whom were martyred. One story suggests Valentine died as a result of continuing to marry young couples, after Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage. He thought single men made better soldiers.

Another tale suggests Valentine was killed for helping imprisoned Christians escape. And the third says that while in prison himself, Valentine sent the first “valentine” greeting to a young woman he loved. He allegedly signed the letter “from your Valentine”, an expression still used today.

It’s also possible that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in mid February to “christianize” the pagan holiday, Lupercalia. This fertility festival is connected to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. Lupercalia became outlawed by the end of the 5th century. Pope Gelasius officially declared February 14 Valentine’s Day. During the middle ages, some countries commonly believed that birds began mating on that day, which created the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a romantic day.

Written valentines appeared after 1400. The oldest known valentine is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415.

Valentine’s Day Traditions from Around the World

Looking for fun or unusual ways to celebrate the day of love? Check out these traditions.


Ahhh, if a country of love exists, it must be France. Paris, after all, is called the “city of love”. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14, as it is in the US. However, in France the holiday is much less commercialized. The major difference is that Valentine’s Day in France is for adult lovers only. It’s not a time for children to make cute heart crafts and hand out valentines at school.

Parents don’t give gifts to their children on that day either. Romantic couples express their love for each other with small gifts, flowers or dinners out, but rarely with cards. The most popular way for the French to celebrate the day of love is with a romantic weekend away.

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Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world – France


In the Philippines, many young couples marry on Valentine’s Day, during a government sponsored event. Besides these celebratory mass weddings, many married couples choose to renew their wedding vows on that day as well.

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Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world – a good day to marry in the Philippines

South Korea

In this country, the 14th of EVERY month is a day of love. Besides Valentine’s Day on February 14, there’s Day of Roses on May 14, Day of Kisses in June and Day of Hugs in December. There’s even a day for single people on April 14. They get together to eat black noodles.

For Valentine’s Day, only the women give gifts, typically chocolates, to their beloveds. A month later, on March 14, the men reciprocate with gifts worth threes times the value of the gift they received on Valentine’s Day.

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Lots of love throughout the year, in South Korea.


In Ghana, February 14 is National Chocolate Day. The government launched the holiday in 2007, to increase tourism. Ghana is one of the top producers of cocoa. On Valentine’s Day couples attend performances and musical events and visit restaurants that offer special themed menus for the day.

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Valentine’s Day Traditions Around the World – Ghana


The Welsh celebrate Valentine’s Day on January 25. Called the Day of San Dwynwen, lovers exchange beautifully handcrafted wooden spoons called love spoons. The spoons were originally carved to express a man’s intentions toward a young lady. Giving her the spoon announced his desire to court her.

The tradition began in the 16th century and continues today as a way to commemorate special events. Dwynwen is the Welsh saint of lovers, making her the equivalent of Saint Valentine.

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Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world – wooden spoons from Wales


Although celebrating Valentine’s Day in Denmark is a fairly new tradition, they do so beautifully. Friends and lovers exchange handmade cards, cut into shapes. Each card includes pressed snowdrop flowers.

They may also exchange fun “joke letters”, so called due to the lack of a signature on the note. Instead, the sender adds one dot for each letter of his or her name. If the recipient correctly guesses the identity of the card giver, that person receives a candy Easter egg on Easter Sunday. If the recipient does not guess the name, the sender receives the egg.

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A fun twist on Valentine’s Day, in Denmark


The Romanians combine romantic and unusual celebrations for Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 24. Many young couples get engaged on this day. The couples go into the forests to collect colorful spring flowers pushing up through the snow, to give to each other. They also wash their faces with the snow, as a wish for good luck.

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Valentine’s Day Traditions from Around the World – spring flowers in Romania


In Estonia, February 14 is Friendship Day. Call Sobrapaev, this festival includes everyone, from couples to friends to family members. Everyone exchanges gifts and celebrates love.

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February 14 is Friendship Day in Estonia.


Similar to South Korea, the Japanese women give the men in their lives chocolates on Valentine’s Day. However, not all chocolates are equal! “Giri-choco” is a ready made chocolate gifted to friends and family. Giri means obligation so these chocolates are an obligatory gift to show affection but not romantic love.

“Honmei-choco”, a more expensive or homemade chocolate, goes to romantic partners.

And on March 14, men return the sentiment with chocolates given to those who gifted them candy on Valentine’s Day.

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Valentine’s Day Traditions from Around the World – Japan

Czech Republic

Valentine’s Day is becoming more popular among young people in Czech Republic. On May 1, couples go on pilgrimage to the statue of poet Karol Hynek Macha. Then they gather beneath cherry trees and kiss for good luck.

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Kiss beneath cherry trees in Czech Republic.


In Slovenia, Saint Valentine is a patron saint of spring. They believe that on February 14, plants start to regenerate, marking the first day of working in the fields, for the new year. They also believe that birds propose to each other on this special day. One must walk barefoot through the frozen fields to sneak up on the birds, to witness the proposals.

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Valentine’s Day Traditions from Around the World – birds proposing in Slovenia

South Africa

In South Africa, Valentine’s Day celebrations include festivals, flowers and small tokens of love. Plus, women wear hearts on their sleeves on February 14. The pinned paper heart on a woman’s sleeve contains the printed name of her love interest. The tradition originated during the Roman pagan holiday, Lupercalia. In many cases, this is how men learn about their admirers.

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Valentine’s Day Traditions from Around the World – South Africa

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

I love discovering new traditions and learning more about cultures in other countries. My own Valentine Day’s tradition most closely matches Estonia. I enjoy giving small gifts or candy to my children and grandchildren.

It’s a day for showing love, care and affection to everyone and to oneself.

One year, I bought a dozen white roses and drove around town, handing them out to people dining alone or working during the holiday. Their smiles made my day.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Did you find a new tradition to incorporate this year?

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Valentine’s Day finds from Amazon:


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Journey 45: Pinewood Derby Race


What a fun Valentine’s Day, spent in the pleasant company of various family members. Tomorrow, as we gather to celebrate a child’s birthday, I’ll get to see the rest of my family.

The highlight of the afternoon was attending my first ever pinewood derby race. Grandson Jonathan qualified in the preliminary in his Boy Scout pack, earning him a place at the finals today. SE Kansas area troops gathered at the mall in Pittsburg for a jamboree. There were booths with fun activities set up everywhere. As the boys moved from booth to booth, their cards were stamped. A completed card was presented for prizes.

At the center of the mall, the track was set up for the derby. Each participant registered his pinewood car that he had made for the race. Jonathan’s green car looked so sharp! The boys lined up along the race track while older scouts set up three cars at a time to race. The cars competed in three sets, changing the cars to a different lane each time, with the run times averaged out after the third race.

Jonathan’s car did well. He didn’t take a trophy home, this year, however, he had a great showing, and he was a good sport. There will be other years to try again, if he continues to enjoy the challenge. I’m proud of him for all his work and his willingness to experience something new. It takes courage, at any age, to put yourself out there, and be willing to fail. Jonathan is courageous.

After the race I had a fun lunch with Jonathan, Josh, Elissa and Greg. We chatted while we enjoyed Mexican food at Del Rio. Jonathan at last could play with the car he had so carefully crafted without being concerned about messing the car up before the race.

Jonathan has benefitted from his scouting experiences. I’m looking forward to seeing what catches his interest next as he continues in the Boy Scout organization.


Watch Jonathan’s Pinewood Derby Race here

Day 45: Hand Out Roses on Valentine’s Day


Valentine’s Day, the day of celebrating love, is not a happy day for everyone. For some it is a painful or lonely holiday. This is also Random Acts of Kindness Week. My desire for today’s first was to combine the two events by handing out roses to people. What happened was that the first became much more intentional, rather than random! It was a sweet experience.

A busy day kept me from doing my first until this evening. By the time I headed out to buy flowers and give them away, the sun was setting and a beautiful full moon was rising. It seemed appropriate, somehow. And it influenced my choice of roses. I had envisioned buying yellow roses, for friendship. What I selected were gorgeous roses as white as the moon that was shining brightly in the velvet sky.

I asked to be guided to people who could use a smile and a reminder that someone cares about them. And the fun began. The first recipient was the cashier at the store where I made my purchase. She admired the roses as I dug in my purse for money. The look on her face as I handed her one, and wished her a Happy Valentine’s Day, was priceless. My focus became people who were working this evening, while others were out on special dates. The girl who handed me my tea at Sonic got a rose as did the young lady behind the counter in McDonalds.

I enjoyed my stroll through this fast food restaurant. McDonald’s isn’t a common destination for Valentine’s dinner. There were four men present, each sitting alone, engrossed in their computers or cell phones. I walked by each one and dropped a rose on their tables, wishing them a happy day. The three older men gave me startled looks, smiled and thanked me. As I walked toward the last guy, a considerably younger man who had been listening to music, he removed his earbuds and looked at me with a hopeful expression. I laughed as I gave him his rose. He beamed.

My last stop was to one of my favorite places in Joplin, Cupcakes by Liz, on Main Street. I knew Liz, Jim and their staff had put in a very long and busy day. I gave my last roses to the ladies working so diligently in the kitchen, baking and boxing up beautiful edible creations. I left feeling really good about making a dozen people smile tonight, and hopefully, feel appreciated. I didn’t leave Cupcakes by Liz empty handed though. Happy Valentine’s Day to me!