From romantic, red roses to creamy, decadent chocolate, Valentine’s Day is a time to show those whom you care about in your life just how much you love them.
However, believe it or not, love on Valentine’s Day can look very different, depending on the location of where you live.
Read on to learn unique Valentine’s Day customs around the world and the interesting history behind the holiday that we heart.
What is Valentine’s Day?
Today, Valentine’s Day is a day in which we express our love to our romantic partners—and sometimes friends—often through love letters, chocolate, candy, teddy bears, and candle-lit dinners.
When is Valentine’s Day 2023?
Valentine’s Day is on February 14 every year. This Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday.
How Did Valentine’s Day Start?
The origin story of Valentine’s Day—the holiday that the world has fallen in love with quite literally— is somewhat murky. Many historians believe that the earliest link to the modern celebration of love associated with Valentine’s Day began in Rome, the city of romance, with the pagan festival of fertility. This festival was known as Lupercalia and was celebrated in mid-February.
During this festival, naked men would gather together and sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purity to Faunus, the Roman god of Agriculture, as well as Romulus and Remus the Roman founders. They would then cut the goat hide into strips dipped in the sacrificial blood and use them to whip the women, believing that this would make the women more fertile.
Later in the day, the women’s names would be thrown into an urn and their names would be chosen randomly to be matched with a man for the next year. This arrangement often ended in marriage and children.
Though the festival continued 150 years into the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire, it was eventually discontinued due to being “non-Christian.”
However, shortly after this, the Catholic church declared that February 14 would be set as a day of feasting and celebration in honor of the martyred Saint Valentine (although no one seems to know which one of the three popular Saint Valentines).
Despite Valentine’s Day receiving its official, current date at this time, the holiday wasn’t romanticized until the 14th century when English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote “Parliament of Fowls.” This poem was one of the first references to the concept of Valentine’s Day being a special day for lovers.
More Modern Customs—Valentine's Day Gifts, Flowers, and Love Notes
Obviously, over time, Valentine’s Day customs have evolved, so we celebrate this day of love a little differently than we used to.
Now, Valentine’s Day celebrations around the world typically involve some kind of love note, gift, chocolate, flowers, or Valentine’s Day meals.
However, there are still customs and celebrations that are unique to certain countries, as well as their history.
In old-school England, for example, on the eve before Valentine’s Day, women would place five bay leaves on their pillow—one for the center and four on the corners. This practice was supposed to summon dreams of their future husbands.
France used to hold a “loterie d’amour,” or a matchmaking lottery. During this matchmaking lottery, men and women would quite literally holler at each other from their houses and pair off. After pairing off, the men could choose whether they wanted to leave their lover for another woman if they weren’t feeling any attraction.
The leftover, loner women would then angrily gather together around a bonfire and share their pain, burning pictures of the lovers who left them.
Eventually, the French government had to ban the event. Apparently, all is not fair in love and war.
Valentine's Day is still relatively young in Germany.
The custom of celebrating lovers was actually brought to Germany by US soldiers during World War II when they began courting pretty German girls.
In 1950, the first big "Valentine's Ball" took place in Nuremberg, and the custom spread throughout Germany. Since then, flowers, chocolates, and various gifts have been presented by people in love on February 14 every year.
The Danes prefer to celebrate with a playful game of guessing who your secret admirer is. On Valentine’s Day, men gift women with anonymous cards called gaekkebrev, literally translating to “joking letters.” These love notes usually include a funny poem and are written on paper snowflakes.
If the woman can correctly guess who the card is from, she is rewarded with an Easter egg on Easter Sunday. However, if the woman cannot correctly guess who the note is from, she then owes an egg to the secret admirer on Easter Sunday.
In Japan, women are actually the ones who give chocolate to their lovers on Valentine’s Day. The nicer chocolate is saved for romantic partners, while guys that have been “friend-zoned” receive the cheaper chocolate. This cheaper chocolate is known as giri choco, or “obligation chocolate.”
Not to worry though. The favor is soon returned to the ladies on March 14, otherwise known as “White Day” in Japan. On White Day, the men will then proceed to shower women with even fancier gifts and more expensive chocolate.
South Africans literally aren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves because it is a tradition that women pin the names of their lovers to their sleeves on Valentine’s Day.
Sending You Lots of Love from Acorn Stairlifts
Whether you choose to celebrate by going out and enjoying a fancy dinner with your significant other; surprising them with a fluffy, cuddly teddy bear; or showering them with gorgeous flowers and decadent chocolates; Valentine’s Day is the time to show that special someone just how much you love them.
Acorn Stairlifts wants to send you lots of love on this special holiday.
Happy Valentine’s Day!