How Other Countries Celebrate Valentine's Day

Pink and red paper hearts on a pink background

When you think of Valentine's Day, you probably think of chocolate, roses, and cards. But around the world, different countries celebrate the love a little bit differently—be it in the gifts they exchange or the day on which they actually celebrate it. Here are a few unique ways that Valentine's Day is observed across the globe:

  1. In Japan, women are expected to buy chocolate for the men in their lives. A month later, on March 14th or White Day, men are expected to give women gifts in return, typically white items like marshmallows, white cake, or stationery. 
  2. The TV show Parks and Recreation popularized the idea of February 13th as Galentine's Day, or a day for women to celebrate their female friends, but in some European countries, Valentine's Day is already seen as a day for friendship. Friend's Day, or "Ystävän Päivä in Finnish and Sõbrapäev in Estonian," began in the 1980s in Finland and spread in popularity to the point that by 1996 it was included on Finnish calendars. The day is seen as one for appreciating all forms of love, be it between romantic partners, friends, or family members.
  3. The Welsh celebrate another day for love on January 25th each year, on Dydd Santes Dwynwen. St. Dwynwen is Wales' patron saint of lovers, with January 25th as her saint day. One popular gift exchanged on this day are wooden Welsh love spoons
  4. In Ghana, February 14th is also National Chocolate Day. First established in 2005 by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture, the day was originally created "to create awareness on the need for Ghanaians to patronise cocoa products and to help generate more revenue for national development."  Ghana is one of the world's leading exporters of cocoa, and because the day is already one for exchanging and eating chocolate, the government saw it as an opportunity to celebrate the country's role in the global chocolate industry, and encourage Ghanaians to shop—and eat—local.
  5. To Slovenians, St. Valentine is a patron saint of spring, so the day has traditionally been viewed as the first day of farming. While Valentine's Day as a day for romance has grown in popularity in Slovenia, they also celebrate love on March 12th, the feast day for St. Gregory. According to folk tradition, "on St. Gregory’s Day birds are joined in wedlock. In the days of yore, it was custom for the maidens to look up into the sky on this day; it was believed that the first bird they would see indicated what type of husband they will end up marrying."

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