When you see red roses, candies, milk chocolates, and fancy cards decorated outside every store, it’s a clear sign that St. Valentine is in town. Although Valentine’s Day has grown to become a mass-marketed holiday that targets consumers across the globe, it comes from deeply rooted Roman traditions and history. Although the story of how it began tends to vary from person to person, one thing’s for sure is that it can be traced back to Claudius II, the famous Roman Emperor. History tells us that Valentine was formerly a priest who served in Rome during the 3rd century. During that time, Emperor Claudius II realized that unmarried men made better soldiers than those who had a wife and family. He then passed a law that young soldiers couldn’t get married.
Valentine opposed this view and considered this law unfair to men. He then decided to take matters into his own hands and secretly performed marriages of lovers. It wasn’t long before Emperor Claudius II found out about this, and he immediately ordered that Valentine be put to death. On February 14, Valentine was executed, and his martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church.
However, there are several versions of this story. For example, other tales say that Saint Valentine was killed as he helped the Christians escape Roman torture in the prisons. As time passed, these stories of St. Valentine traveled across the globe and became popular among couples, which is why this day is considered the day of love!
Now that you know how Valentine’s Day came into being, let’s explore how this day is celebrated across the globe. Apart from gifting flowers and chocolates, different countries have their own way of celebrating it with their unique customs and traditions. Read on to learn more!
1. The United Kingdom
Let’s begin with Europe’s greatest powerhouse. The United Kingdom celebrates this holiday in full swing, and traditions vary in different regions. One tradition that dates back to the Victorian era is that Valentine’s gifts and cards are sent anonymously to their lovers. The reason behind this is that Victorians considered name signing bad luck. Another tradition is that red roses are also popularly given because it’s a favorite of the Roman goddess of love, Venus.
In England particularly, the women keep five bay leaves on their pillow covers. One at every corner and one in the middle. This is done on the eve of Valentine’s Day, as it’s believed that these leaves will make their dream of their future husband.
In Norfolk, similar to Santa’s arrival, the children wait for Jack Valentine to knock at their doors, leaving behind plenty of candy and gifts at their doorsteps.
In Wales, the situation is different. The citizens celebrate St. Dwynwen’s Day instead of Valentine’s. He was a Welsh patron saint of love, and on January 25, the men would gift their love interested a traditionally carved wooden spoon. This tradition came from the Welsh sailors in the 17th century who once carved intricate designs and symbols on wooden spoons while they were at sea. Upon arrival back home, these spoons would then be presented to their lovers as a token of their appreciation and affection. Some of the symbols included horseshoes, which meant good luck; keys symbolized a key to his heart, and wheels stood for support. Even today, these Welsh spoons are gifted for weddings, births, and anniversaries.
Call it feminist or female-dominated, but in Japan, it’s the women who are supposed to make the first move. This means the men receive gifts on Valentine’s Day, and the popular gift is homemade chocolate with love, which is known as honmei-choco. What do the men do? Well, they returned the gesture on White Day, which is March 14. Men give their lovers gifts in white, such as white chocolate, as a sign of their love and support.
What’s important in this chocolate exchange tradition is the type of chocolate given. Now for husbands, fiancé’s, or boyfriends, the women usually give premium quality chocolate, one that reflects their love for their partner. And these are usually hand-delivered. When it comes to acquaintances or colleagues, lower-quality chocolate is given, which is known as Giri-choco.
Now, if a man receives honmei-choco, on March 14, they’re supposed to give their lovers gifts that double the worth of the chocolates they received. This could mean a fancy watch, perfume, or even designer clothes.
3. South Korea
Like Japan, the women in South Korea are also expected to gift their men on Valentine’s Day while returning the favor on White Day. But that’s not all; South Korea also celebrates Black Day a month later. This is especially for all the single people to celebrate together with a bowl of noodles in black sauce. They even dress up in full black outfits to celebrate the day. A date for everyone seems fun, doesn’t it? But this doesn’t end here. They also celebrate Rose Day in May, Kiss Day in June, and Hug Day in December!
Moving on to Slovenia, Valentine ’s Day is considered more of a workday rather than a holiday. Why? Well, St. Valentine was one patron saint of spring, so the citizens spent this day working hard in the fields to honor the saint. But that’s not to say they don’t celebrate a day of love; Slovenians exchange gifts and go on romantic dates on St. Gregory’s Day, March 12.
5. Finland and Estonia
In Finland and Estonia, the citizens celebrate Friend’s Day instead of Valentine’s Day on February 14. This day is specially set to honor friends and love interests. Cards and gifts are given out to everyone as a sign of love and appreciation. Another interesting fact about February 14 is that this day is quite popular for engagements in both countries. Estonia also has a Love Bus that single people ride on February 14 in the hope of finding true love.
Moving to the country of love, no one celebrates Valentine's better than the French! They had a unique tradition called Une loterie d'amour in which single people are lined up in houses facing each other. They were supposed to call out to each other through the windows until they found a partner. The women that were left without a partner got together and built a massive bonfire. They'd burn pictures of the men who rejected him while insulting them. Seems intense, doesn't it?
Luckily, the government banned this practice altogether. Now lovers exchange gifts like chocolates, cheese, and croissants! Truly C’est magnifique!
Norway also has a romantic tradition that's called Gaekkebrev and dates back to the 18th century. Lovers write poems to their partners and then create beautiful patterns on paper. They finish it off by pressing a snowdrop flower and then signing it with a dot for every letter of their name. Now, here's where the fun begins. The woman is supposed to correctly guess the name of her admirer, and if she does, she'll get an Easter egg. If she doesn't, a yolk is put on her head, and she has to give the admirer an Easter egg.
It was only in the 1990s that Valentine's Day became an official holiday in Denmark. However, the Danes have several customs and rituals to celebrate this day. Instead of flowers and chocolates, lovers exchange handmade cards that have Snowdrop flowers pressed onto them. The Norway gaekkebrev tradition is also carried out in Denmark.
In Italy, a romantic dinner is one of the most popular ways to celebrate Valentine's Day.
Italians used to celebrate Valentine's Day like a Spring Festival. The men would gather outside in the garden to enjoy poetry and music before spending time with their partners.
Another tradition was for unmarried girls. They were expected to wake up before dawn to look out for their future husbands. They believed that the first man they saw on Valentine's Day was one she'd marry. Today, Italians exchange gifts and go on romantic dinners.
10. The Philippines
Valentine's Day in The Philippines is huge, like literally! Every year hundreds of couples get together and get married in public spaces. Yes, that's right. From best friends to neighbors and colleagues, all plan to get married on the very same day! The best part is that these celebrations are sponsored by the government. They consider this a public service helping underprivileged couples get married.
Argentinians are known for their passion, and this is a demonstration by their week-long love festival in July called Sweetness week. The lovers exchange candies, chocolates, gifts, and more.
Valentine's Day Gift Ideas
Valentine's Day will be here before you know it, so if you have confessed your love to your partner, now is the time to begin preparing. While flowers and chocolates are standard gifts, it's time to take a step ahead and choose something personalized and meaningful. Here are some unique Valentine's Day gift ideas for your loved one:
1. Customized Couple Mugs
If you're looking for something practical yet cute, then a customized couple of mugs are the way to go. You'll find a variety online, and some companies can even print pictures and quotes based on your liking. A fun "Mr. Right" and "Mrs. Always Right" mug set will be a great way to begin your mornings. This is something your partner will truly appreciate and use on a daily. From coffee to tea or hot chocolate, this Valentine's gift will be their go-to option.
2. Scented Candles
Scented candles are one of the most unrated yet functional and beautiful gifts. They come in a variety of scents such as floral and fruity for women or oud and musk for men. Candles can be kept in the bedroom to bring in the sense of romance or even on the dinner table for a lovely candlelight dinner. The aroma itself will help you relax and de-stress. Some candle companies even offer customized prints on the glass jar, so you can get your names printed for that extra personalized touch. Wrap the candle and tie a cute note with words like "You light up my life," and watch your partner smile with joy!
3. Customized Canvas Prints
We saved the best for last. Canvas prints are one of the most unique and wonderful gifts for Valentine's Day. They can be customized with pictures, love songs, quotes, and even illustrations. Canvas prints aren't like regular posters. They are a piece of art that adds to the overall aesthetic appeal of your space. Digital prints tend to fade over a year; however, canvas prints are museum quality and are known to be super long-lasting. They have a satin-matte finish, so you don't have to worry about glare. The best part is they are available in various sizes so you can get the exact look you want.
Order Canvas Prints Online
Custom canvas prints are the perfect Valentine’s Day gift and will surely sweep your partner off their feet. At Amour Prints, we have a wide range of lyric art canvases, including love custom music art canvas, wedding song lyric canvas art, romantic couple art canvas, custom Spotify music art canvas, and so much more. Don’t wait any longer; place your orders today to receive a custom-designed canvas in no time. Contact us to find out more.