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Melon, bonfires, mass weddings: How Valentine’s Day has been celebrated around the world

‘Loterie d’amour’ sounds like quite the event

Stock image. Loe Moshkovska (Pexels)

Valentine’s Day is big business in the United States.

In fact, about $27.4 billion was expected to be spent on the occasion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation.

In the U.S., we traditionally share a meal with our loved ones, often buy traditional gifts like flowers and chocolate, and do other inventive sweet gestures.

But how do other countries celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Here’s a look at some rituals — both past and present — of celebration in 10 other countries, according to HuffPost.


1. France

These days, the French often celebrate by exchanging cards and gifts, but there used to be a ritual performed by many in the country that has since been banned by the French government.

Called “loterie d’amour,” which means “drawing for love,” men and women would fill houses that faced one another and take turns calling out to one another as a means of finding a match. Men who didn’t like their match could leave that woman for another. Any women left unmatched then gathered for a bonfire, where they buried pictures of men who wronged them and hurled insults. The event eventually became uncontrollable, thus, why it was banned.

2. Denmark

Exchanging cards is a popular Valentine’s Day pastime in this country, as is giving out pressed white flowers called snowdrops instead of roses.

Men also give out a letter featuring a funny poem or silly rhyme written on paper and signed with anonymous dots. If a woman who receives such a letter can correctly guess who sent it, she gets an Easter egg later that year.

3. South Korea

It’s a more drawn out celebration in this nation, which starts Feb. 14 with women giving men goodies such as chocolate, candy or flowers. A month later, men have their turn to give similar gifts to women. On April 14, single people who don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day can mourn by eating bowls of black bean-paste noodles called jajangmyeon.

4. China

The Chinese version of Valentine’s Day is actually Aug. 14. Traditionally, women prepare offerings of melon and other fruits in hopes of finding a good husband. Couples will also pray for happiness and prosperity at temples.

5. Philippines

The big tradition in this country is mass weddings on Feb. 14. Couples gather at malls or other public areas to have wedding ceremonies at the same time.

6. Italy

There used to be a ritual among Italian women in which they would wake up before dawn and the first man they saw on Valentine’s Day would be their husband within a year.

Italy has since gone to more conventual rituals, involving gifts and romantic dinners.

7. Wales

A traditional celebration that still goes on today is the gift of love spoons. Going back to the 17th century, men carved wooden spoons as a symbol of affection for the women they loved. The spoons are still exchanged today not only for Valentine’s Day, but for special occasions such as weddings, births and anniversaries.

8. South Africa

In addition to men and women giving out gifts such as flowers and chocolate, the women pin the name of their love interest on their shirtsleeves to follow an ancient Roman tradition.

Men can learn of secret admirers this way.

9. Brazil

The big difference with the way Brazil celebrates Valentine’s Day is that it doesn’t do it on Feb. 14, but rather on June 12. Still, it’s the same type of celebration common to other nations, with festivals and gift exchanges taking place around the country.

10. England

There used to be a popular tradition in which English women would place five bay leaves on their pillows to bring dreams of future husbands. They would also wet bay leaves with rosewater and place them across their pillows.

Today features more common celebrations with cards, gifts and dinners shared.

Do any of these sound more fun than what we do in the U.S.?


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