February 14, 2013
It’s Valentine’s Day today, and though I’m no fan of the over the top commercialization of love, I’m still a romantic at heart. I couldn’t let this day go by without delving a little deeper into its history and origins and finding out how the rest of the world celebrates. It is a temporary diversion from evaluating international credentials though I’m still maintaining a “global” perspective.
Without going into too much detail (for the longer version check out this link http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day), its believed that the origins of this day of love stemmed in an attempt by the early Christian church to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival celebrated on February 15 or the Ides of February. By the end of the 5th century, Lupercalia was outlawed and February 14th was declared by Pope Gelasius as St. Valentine’s Day. Now, it needs to be said that the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different martyred saints named Valentine each with his own appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and romantic figure.
Here in America, we celebrate February 14th by exchanging greeting cards, giving chocolates, gifts and roses. I’ve randomly picked 10 countries to see how they celebrate this day or similar day dedicated to love and here’s what I found:
1. Brazil – Celebrates “Dias dos Namorados” or the Day of the Enamored on June 12th where couples exchange flowers, chocolates, and presents. They celebrate it on June 12th because June 13th happens to be Saint Anthony’s Day, which is when single women perform “simpatias” or rituals to attract a nice boyfriend. They probably don’t celebrate it in February because it’s too close to Carnival, which by itself is a love-fest of its own!
2. China – Celebrates two Valentine’s Days, one being the commercially recognized February 14th and the other falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, known as “Qi Xi,” or “Magpie Festival,” or “The Night of Sevens.” The legend is that a young cowherd and a weaver girl, who happened to be the daughter of the Goddess, met on earth, fell in love and married. But when the Goddess learned of her daughter’s marriage, she ordered her return to heaven. The cowherd followed his beloved which angered the Goddess who cast a river into the sky, creating the Milky Way, separating the two lovers. But once a year, all the magpies from around the world would fly up into the Milky Way forming a bridge over the river so that two
lovers could meet and reunite.
3. Dominican Republic – Friends and family play a game called “Angelito” where they rip pieces of paper and write the name of another person, either girl or boy. Then each player gives his/her “angelito” a present.
4. El Salvador – Same game as “Angelito” in the Dominican Republic, but they call theirs “secreto.”
5. Japan – There are two Valentine’s Days in Japan. On February 14th, girls give dark chocolate to the boys they like and on March 14th, boys give cookies or white chocolate to the girls they like.
6. Slovenia – Celebrates the day of love on March 12, or Saint Gregory’s Day, known traditionally as the day of love and the first day of spring, although Valentine’s Day/February 14th has usurped tradition. There’s Pust, or Carnival, where Slovenians celebrate the beginning of a new cycle of nature and farming. The celebration includes wearing masks and costumes resembling the animals in the field. To learn more about this festival, check out this link: http://www.slovenia.info/en/Pustne-prireditve/search-selected.htm?carnival=0&srch=1&srchtype=sel&sqlst=3090&lng=2&ctgrdr=1
7. South Korea – Apparently the 14th day of every month is celebrated in some way to honor love in Korea. There is Kiss Day, Green Day, Wine Day, Hug Day, you get the picture. But on February 14th, also known as White Day, men give candy or gifts to women. On April 14th or Black Day, the women who didn’t get anything on February 14th, go to Chinese restaurants and eat black noodles to mourn their lackluster love life.
A bowl of jjajang myeon noodles served on Black Day, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
8. Spain – Only people in love get and give presents.
9. Vietnam – Couples wear the same style and/or color of clothes.
10. Iran – May have rejected Western influences, but Valentine’s Day and all its accouterments have worked their way into the minds of the youth of the Islamic state’s affluent culture who want to have fun and romance. Giving cards, flowers, chocolates are just some of the ways the romantically-minded youth in Iran express their Love on February 14th, despite the disapproval of the authorities.
Whether you personally celebrate or not, let us know how Valentine’s Day or its equivalent is celebrated in your country. Here’s wishing you a Happy Valentine’s day!
The Frustrated Evaluator